Final Seaway surge expected before shipping season ends
The Great Lakes/St. Lawrence Seaway is expecting a strong finish to the shipping season as freighters deliver critical raw materials and exports for North America’s industrial and agricultural sectors before the waterway closes December 31.
According to The St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation, total cargo shipments reached 30.3 million metric tons for the period from March 21 to November 30. In December, dozens of ships are still in the navigation system.
“Given current temperatures and ice conditions, we’re expecting a smooth closing of the Seaway at the end of December. In these final weeks, the waterway will be a busy export corridor for the U.S. Midwest, Canadian Prairie and Ontario harvests, as well as a conduit for iron ore, road salt and other raw materials for manufacturers and cities to stockpile for the winter,” said Terence Bowles, President and CEO of The St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation.
Grain shipments (Canadian and U.S.) via the Seaway totaled 9.4 million metric tons up to the end of November, in line with 2015’s strong numbers. Significant volumes are expected in December.
The Port of Thunder Bay, which is the largest grain port on the system, was expecting another 65 ships in December and the first two weeks of January. The majority of these ships are loading Prairie grain for export and some will still be delivering grain and coal to ports within the Lakes during the first two weeks of January.
The Port of Johnstown, situated on the St. Lawrence Seaway, is forecasting another record year for grain shipments and processing, with tonnage totaling more than 780,000 metric tons—up 7 percent over 2015.
“There’s been a great soybean harvest in Eastern Ontario this year and we have been unloading as many as 170 trucks a day to have shipments ready to send out by vessel to overseas markets. Due to our efficiency improvements, we’re capturing new business from farmers that may have previously trucked their soybeans all the way to Sorel, Quebec and are now choosing to ship by water out of the Port of Johnstown,” said Robert Dalley, General Manager of the Port of Johnstown. “We have five more ships coming in over the next few weeks, three to export grain and two carrying inbound road salt to help de-ice winter roads.”
The amount of grain coming in and out of the Port of Windsor has increased by 47 percent so far this season.
“We’ve had huge volumes of canola and soybeans coming into the ADM terminal to be processed into a variety of food and feed inputs, as well as grains and processed grains for export overseas. Steel imports to the port for local construction, piping and tubing projects have also almost doubled,” said David Cree, President and CEO of the Windsor Port Authority. “Our total cargo volumes have been hit by a decline in stone following the completion of the Rt. Hon Herb Gray Parkway; however, we anticipate recovery in the future as construction begins on the Gordie Howe International Bridge.”
The Port of Hamilton has also had buoyant results in the agrifood sector. By the end of November, more than a million metric tons of grain and half a million metric tons of fertilizer had transited the port, exceeding 2015 tonnages by 20 percent.
“We expect this positive trend to continue in 2017 as new capacity comes online at G3’s new grain export terminal and Parrish & Heimbecker’s new flour mill, both of which will be operational in the coming year,” said Ian Hamilton, President & CEO, Hamilton Port Authority.
Shipments of oversized, high-value project cargo through the Seaway are also up 42 percent this season, with wind turbines and machinery leading the way. Shippers are increasingly recognizing the value of shipping this type of cargo through the Seaway directly into the North American heartland following concerted marketing efforts over the past few years.
“The Port of Hamilton’s positive experience with project cargo paralleled that of the Seaway as a whole, with steady improvement over 2015,” said Hamilton. “We saw a number of cargoes come through that were closely connected to southern Ontario’s important manufacturing sector, such as heavy machinery and plant components. The Great Lakes/Seaway waterway is a safe, cost-effective way to ship these very large components, helping to minimize the disruption on our busy roads.”