St. Lawrence Seaway shipments up 4 percent: grain star performer

As the fall harvest approaches, Great Lakes/St. Lawrence Seaway ships are hard at work delivering the large excess of grain remaining from the 2017 harvest to export markets. Canadian grain shipments via the St. Lawrence Seaway (from March 29 to August 31) totaled 4.3 million metric tons, up 13 percent over the same period last year.

The grain rush has helped boost overall cargo shipments on the St. Lawrence Seaway between March 29 and August 31 to 21.4 million metric tons; a 4 percent increase over this time last year. Liquid bulk shipments at 2.8 million metric tons are also up 33 percent, with coal at 1.5 million metric tons, up 30 percent.

“Great Lakes/Seaway ships are helping clear out the huge Western Canadian grain harvest still left over from last year and responding to the increased demand from European markets for Ontario corn. The Great Lakes/St. Lawrence Seaway system is a key national transportation and trade corridor, accounting for 27 percent of all Canadian 2017-18 grain exports shipped out on bulk vessels,” said Terence Bowles, President and CEO of The St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation.

Canadian ports throughout the region are seeing the effects of the demand for grain.

The Port of Johnstown has received and shipped 190,000 metric tons of soybeans, corn and wheat from the region’s farmers through its terminal so far this year. Ships have transported 50,000 metric tons of that grain to export markets.

“We are currently up 18 percent from this time last year for total grain cargo,” said Robert Dalley, Port of Johnstown General Manager. “Last month, we also received just under 5,000 metric tons of bulk steel by ship for the construction industry. The port continues to increase its available cargo laydown areas with C$600,000 being invested to clear and develop five acres of additional land.”

Hamilton Port Authority’s total year-to-date tonnage was up 17 percent from a year ago, thanks to grain, fertilizer and petroleum products. Year-to-August grain exports were up 115 percent compared to the same period last year.

“Thanks to the harvest crop last year, the export grain cargo continues to be the best-performing commodity this year,” said Ian Hamilton, President and CEO at the Hamilton Port Authority. “We’ve seen a significant increase in corn exports. Europe is always a large importer of corn, but this year, a heat wave has meant European livestock producers have been relying on more imported corn as feed. European tariffs on United States corn have also benefitted other exporters like Canada.”

Hamilton continued: “Fertilizer imports to the port have also increased to catch up with the demand from the Ontario farmers. The summer travel season also boosted the gasoline and jet fuel demands for petroleum, and there was an increase in asphalt shipments for road construction work.”

The Port of Thunder Bay also continues to see large shipments of grain this summer, but August brought increases in coal, potash and general cargo compared to August 2017.

“At this point we are forecasting a strong finish to the season led by grain shipments,” said Tim Heney, President and CEO of the Thunder Bay Port Authority. “Our terminal reconfiguration project is well underway, and our new rail yard is nearing completion.”

The C$15 million project at the general cargo Keefer terminal involves adding new track infrastructure and laydown areas for cargo staging and transshipment to respond to increased demand, and building a 4,645-square-meter multipurpose heated facility to suit requirements of terminal users. An existing, aging shed will be removed to improve cargo flow and improve site safety.

Maritime Editorial