Seaway Grain Shipments Up Amid Booming Demand

Sep 18, 2020

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Canadian grain shipments through the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway trade corridor are up 20% in response to continuing world demand for wheat and canola, the latest figures show.
Year-to-date shipments of grain (from April 1 to August 31) totaled 5.2 million tonnes, as ships transported Prairie wheat and canola and Ontario wheat and soybeans for both domestic use and for export to markets around the world, according to the Chamber of Marine Commerce.
The rush of grain, which is carry over from last year’s crops, has helped to offset continuing pandemic-related declines in other key cargoes such as iron ore (down 23%), dry bulk (down 11%), and liquid bulk (down 23%). Overall year-to-date cargo shipments via the Seaway totalled 19.3 million tonnes, down 8% compared to the same period in 2019.
“The Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway serves as a key trade gateway for farmers in Ontario, Quebec and the Prairies, but also across the American mid-west,” said Terence Bowles, President and CEO of The St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corp. “Our customers are expecting good harvests from all of these regions this year and the Seaway is poised for a big push of grain exports right up to the end of the year.”
The Port of Thunder Bay, the largest grain port on the Great Lakes, reported that it was on track for its best cargo year in decades as ships lined up to load Prairie wheat and canola destined for Europe, South America, the Caribbean, the Middle East and Africa. Port facilities have handled an extra 1 million tonnes of grain compared to this time last year, a 27% increase
The Hamilton-Oshawa Port Authority (HOPA Ports) also continues to see grain numbers improve, with grain exports within its port network hitting the 1 million-tonne mark in August. The ports of Hamilton and Oshawa provide critical export infrastructure for Ontario-grown corn, wheat and soybeans.
Burlington-based ship operator McKeil Marine also reported that its grain volumes were up 13% in August, and it announced this month that it had acquired a bulker vessel from Europe that will be delivered to Canada to add to its domestic fleet.
“Nationally, our grain markets continue to perform well. In fact, the demand for Canadian grain is booming, which is particularly encouraging news in these challenging times,” said McKeil President, Scott Bravener.
Meanwhile, Port Windsor reported that it has bounced back from a slow spring start caused by the delay in the Seaway opening and Ontario pandemic-related shutdowns. From a spring decline of -18% compared to 2019, overall cargo volumes have surged to recover more than 12% of that deficit over the summer.
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