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Last laker leaves Port of Thunder Bay to end 2021 shipping season

Port authority pleased with increase in imported cargoes of steel and fertilizer products

The 2021 shipping season in Thunder Bay wraps up today with the departure of the MV Manitoulin carrying a shipment of wheat.

The Thunder Bay Port Authority said total cargo volumes topped 8.5 million tonnes for the year, six per cent lower than the five-year average of 9.1 million tonnes mainly due to weather conditions on the Prairies.

More than 7.2 millions tonnes of wheat transitted the Lake Superior port in 2021, down from 9.2 million tonnes in 2020. The five-year average in moving wheat through the port is more than 7.8 million tonnes.

Thunder Bay also handles coal, potash and various dry bulk and general cargoes.

But the port authority said it experienced growth in other areas. Keefer Terminal cargo volumes doubled in 2021, with shipments of steel products and phosphate fertilizer making the most significant gains with the highest tonnages in 20 years. 

The authority said exports of potash to Europe grew substantially this season, exceeding 600,000 tonnes for the first time since 2004. 

“Success in transporting general cargo, particularly valuable dimensional pieces, depends on safe and secure handling. Reliability of the operation is critical,” said Port CEO Tim Heney in a Jan. 14 news release. “Thunder Bay has developed a reputation as a trustworthy Port, and this helps to generate new and repeat business.”

“We’re bringing more inbound cargoes every year," he added. "Matching these cargoes with export grain for saltwater vessels (Salties) reduces the overall cost and environmental impact of shipping. It also ensures a consistent volume of Salties available in Thunder Bay for grain exports.”

Upcoming for the 2022 shipping season, starting in the spring, are several large wind turbine shipments are due at Keefer Terminal in the summer with a strong slate of steel and other general cargoes. 

The port authority said four vessels are wintering in Thunder Bay for maintenance and repair.