Seaway ‘grain rush’ continues as harvests arrive

Global demand for wheat has driven the increase in grain cargo as other shipping classes have fallen off

CSL Frontenac loading grain at the Port of Thunder Bay.

Canadian grain shipments through the St. Lawrence Seaway topped 6.2 million tonnes at the end of September, maintaining its 20 per cent increase over the 2019 season, according to the latest results.

While the ‘grain rush’ has helped lift cargo totals, Great Lakes-seaway shipping also reported decreases in commodities related to steel production, and the energy and construction sectors.

“In a year of many ups and downs, we’re pleased to see grain exports perform remarkably well,” said Terence Bowles, president and CEO of The St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation in a news release. “The new Prairie wheat and canola crops have been arriving by rail over the past few weeks at the Port of Thunder Bay and the Ontario soybean harvest is now underway. We anticipate strong grain shipments will continue for the remainder of the year.”

Overall seaway cargo shipments (from April 1 to September 30) totalled 23.2 million tonnes, down eight per cent. The pandemic continues to impact year-to-date shipments of iron ore, dry bulk and liquid bulk.

The Port of Thunder Bay reported that grain shipments up to the end of September totalled 5.97 million metric tons, an increase of 23 per cent over the same period in 2019.

“Grain shipments at the port have been up every month this season to meet world demand for bread and pasta. All of that grain was from last year’s Prairie crops,” said Tim Heney, president and CEO of Thunder Bay Port Authority, in the same release. “We now have more than 500,000 metric tons from the new harvest in storage waiting to get shipped out on vessels. Rail car unloads at the port over the last weeks continue to be significantly up compared to 2019. We have a busy fall ahead of us.”

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