Northern port forecasts busy season

The head of the Port of Churchill is predicting both grain movement and the number of customers using the facility will increase this year.

“It looks like it will be a solid year,” said Jeff McEachern, executive director of the Churchill Gateway Development Corporation.

Last year, the first boat didn’t load until early August, but with large supplies already in storage, McEachern said the season is expected to get underway in the second or third week of July this year.

The Canadian Wheat Board accounted for the vast majority of grain moving through the port prior to the loss of the single desk last year. But thanks to Ottawa’s Churchill Port Utilization Program — a five-year, $25-million freight subsidy program — the port added barley, canola, and canola pellets to its shipments last year. Two new customers also came on board and there will be at least four customers this year, McEachern said.

He said he’s also expecting an increase in the 430,000 tonnes of grain and oilseeds shipped last year.

“Six hundred (thousand) would be a nice number,” said McEachern.

“I think there is a growing acceptance in the industry for the port, and understanding of its economic advantage. Last year, a lot of people watched what happened and they saw that it provided a good opportunity.”

In addition to grain movement, the freight business to Nunavut is also expected to grow in the 2013 season.

“We’re winning back some customers who had been shipping through Montreal to Nunavut,” said McEachern.

On the import side, McEachern said discussions are ongoing with a number of parties looking at moving fertilizer into Canada through the port. There are also active discussions on moving potash out of Canada through Churchill. In addition, crude oil exports are being explored, although that would require infrastructure changes.

Over the past year, the port has invested in enhancing cleaning capacity and added a cleaner for canola, which will assist in growing the business, said McEachern. Concrete restoration work and other general repairs also took place.

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Phil Franz-Warkentin - MarketsFarm

Phil Franz-Warkentin writes for MarketsFarm specializing in grain and commodity market reporting.

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