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Grain shipments way up on Seaway

 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. The Port of Hamilton, meanwhile is weathering the storm better than expected.

“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. “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) totaled 23.2 million tonnes, down 8 per cent. The pandemic continues to impact year-to-date shipments of iron ore (down 20.6%), dry bulk (down 12.6%) and liquid bulk (down 27.4%).

The Port of Thunder Bay reported that grain shipments up to the end of September totaled 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. “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.”

September has given the Hamilton-Oshawa Port Authority plenty of reasons to smile. As of Sept. 30th, the Port of Hamilton’s total cargo was up 15 per cent over the same month in 2019. Its year-to-date totals for grain, fertilizer, salt, coke, and gypsum have also increased significantly from the prior year. Though the year-to-date overall cargo total for the Port of Hamilton is still 13 per cent less than 2019’s total, the gap is shrinking. (Back in August, it was down 18 per cent.)

Across the lake, the Port of Oshawa has defied the odds – as its year-to-date tonnage total is up 15 per cent, led by steel and cement cargo, despite COVID-19.

“This summer we were bracing ourselves for a significant drop in results, as all types of cargo were being affected,” said Ian Hamilton, President & CEO of HOPA Ports. “Though it’s still early, we’re quite pleased to see the trend reversing. This pandemic may have changed how we work, but we’ve never stopped – the integrity of our supply chains has been maintained and at this moment, there’s more than $21 million worth of construction projects on the go at the Port of Hamilton. That’s the most we’ve ever had going on at one time.”

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