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Canadian port traffic including Hamilton on the rebound

With 3.9 million metric tons of cargo moving through the St. Lawrence Seaway in July, the statistics for the 2020 shipping season continue to improve at a slow pace. July shipments pushed overall shipments (from April 1 to July 31) to 15.6 million metric tons, down just less than 8 per cent when compared to the same time period in 2019.

Year-to-date shipments of iron ore (down 13 per cent), coal (down 16 per cent), dry bulk (down 12 per cent) and liquid bulk (down 20 per cent) were offset in part by a strong showing in Canadian grain (up 13 per cent) and general cargo like wind turbines (up 4 per cent).

“It’s great to see the continued strong numbers for Canadian grain shipments, which has helped offset significant declines in key cargo sectors such as iron ore, dry bulk and petroleum,” said Terence Bowles President and CEO of The St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation. “The Seaway has been a vital export corridor for Canadian farmers to reach world markets during the pandemic. We’re hopeful that grain numbers will remain strong with the new crop harvests in the autumn.”

The Port of Thunder Bay continues to see above-average grain shipments. This is a reflection of the continuing international demand for wheat through the global pandemic,” said Tim Heney, Chief Executive Officer at the Port of Thunder Bay. “We anticipate strong grain shipments in fall with Canadian farmers preparing to harvest one of the Top 5 largest crops in history.”

Overall, year-to-date cargo shipments for the Port of Thunder Bay have topped 4.7 million metric tons, about 17 per cent above last year’s tonnage at this time of the shipping season.   

Port Windsor, meanwhile, continues to enjoy a summer recovery from the late Seaway opening and the COVID-19 pandemic. “We continue to see grain shipments (up 18.9 per cent) leading the way with aggregates, salt and petroleum volumes nearing 2019 levels,” said Steve Salmons, President & CEO of Port Windsor. “We also continue to see steel shipments down significantly (off 68 per cent) due primarily to the effects of trade and the pandemic.”

For Port Windsor, July 2020 tonnage was up 7.7 per cent over July 2019, while year-to-date overall tonnage remains down 4.6 per cent year-to-date.

Locally, though the 2020 marine shipping season got off to a rocky start, July marked a turning point for cargo through Hamilton’s port according to the Hamilton-Oshawa Port Authority (HOPA Ports). “Like other Canadian ports on the Great Lakes, Hamilton’s cargo results are finally rebounding,” said VP, Commercial at HOPA Ports, Jeremy Dunn. “In comparing our July 2020 results to the same month in 2019, the port’s total tonnage was up 2% for the first time all year, which makes us optimistic about late gains this season.”

The Port of Hamilton’s year-to-date results for fertilizer, salt, and gypsum are well ahead of 2019’s YTD totals. Grain and petroleum cargo results for July were also up from July 2019, and these commodities are closing in on 2019’s YTD totals.

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