Monday, November 19, 2012

Seaway Cargo Shipments Up 10% in October due to Canadian Grain Rush

Ottawa, Ontario (November 19, 2012) — Total cargo shipments through the St. Lawrence Seaway reached 4.4 million tonnes in October, a 9.8 per cent increase compared to the same month last year.

Year-to-date total cargo shipments from March 22 to October 31 rose to 29.5 million tonnes, up 1.4 per cent over the same period last year.

The St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation reported that an influx of Canadian grain shipments from both Prairie and Ontario farmers for domestic use and export to Europe and the Middle East drove October traffic.

Canadian grain shipments reached 1.2 million tonnes in October, an increase of 39 per cent over the same month last year. Year-to-date Canadian grain shipments are now at 5 million tonnes, up 1 per cent from the same period last season.

Bruce Hodgson, director of market development for the St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation, said: “After a slow start earlier this year, grain shipments have accelerated as Canadian farmers are selling grain overseas.  The Seaway is the most cost-efficient transportation route for reaching European and Middle Eastern markets.  We are optimistic that Canadian grain shipments will be strong until the end of the season and they will finish ahead of last year.”

According to Statistics Canada, wheat, barley and corn production is expected to be up this year following favourable growing conditions in the Prairies. Shipments through the Seaway from Ontario farmers had been slower this year but also picked up considerably in October.  Despite summer drought conditions in parts of the province, corn and soybean crops in southern Ontario have yielded better than expected results.

More than 380,254 tonnes of grain passed through the Port of Hamilton in October.  That was more than half of the 786,495 tonnes of grain (soybeans, wheat, corn and barley) shipped through the port so far this season.

Ian Hamilton, vice president, business development, said: “The Hamilton Port Authority is delighted to see that the multimillion dollar investments made at the Parrish and Heimbecker and Richardson grain terminals in recent years have resulted in excellent growth opportunities."

The Thunder Bay Port Authority — where the majority of Canadian grain enters the Great Lakes-Seaway system — has also seen a surge in outbound grain shipments in the past two months.  Grain tonnage for the two-month period ending October 31, 2012 was the most for that period in 15 years.

More than 660,000 tonnes of grain moved through the port during October alone. Year-to-date grain shipments through Thunder Bay were nearly 4.7 million.

Tim Heney, CEO of the Thunder Bay Port Authority, said that the port has not been negatively impacted by the end of the Canadian Wheat Board monopoly in August. “It’s only been two months, but we are seeing optimistic signs that the Canadian Wheat Board and other grain handling companies are still seeing the Port of Thunder Bay as an advantageous transportation route to their key markets. The last two months have been extremely busy and we have seen a surge of international ships loading grain. October’s tally of 12 ocean-going vessels is the most the port has seen in a single month since 2007.”

Other highlights in St. Lawrence Seaway cargo trade included strong shipments of iron ore with continued growth in exports. Year-to-date iron ore shipments totalled 8.5 million tonnes, up 20 per cent. Year-to-date general cargo, which includes oversized cargo like wind turbines and heavy machinery as well as steel slabs and coils, totalled 1.56 million tonnes — up 9 per cent from the same period last year.

The Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway maritime industry supports 227,000 jobs in the U.S. and Canada, and annually generates $14 billion in salary and wages, $34.6 billion in business revenue, and $4.6 billion in federal, state/provincial and local taxes. North American farmers, steel producers, construction firms, food manufacturers, and power generators depend on the 164 million metric tons of essential raw materials and finished products that are moved annually on the system. This vital trade corridor saves companies $3.6 billion per year in transportation costs compared to the next least-costly land-based alternative.