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Wheat Board’s demise paying dividends for Thunder Bay

Western grain haul had port humming in October
Grain elevator-ship
The vessel Manitoulin loads grain in Thunder Bay in late October.

Strong grain volumes continued for a third straight month at the Port of Thunder Bay.

The port authority reported a good haul through the elevators in October with more than 850,000 tonnes transiting the port.

A Nov. 2 news release said that’s a third more than the 10-year October average of 645,000 tonnes.

Over the last three shipping seasons, grain volumes are 34 per cent higher than the 10-year average measured from 2004 to 2013.

That means an additional two million tonnes is being shipped through the port’s elevators every year.

Since 2013, four consecutive strong harvests on the Prairies have been a boon to the western Lake Superior port.

In a statement, port authority CEO Tim Heney said with the largest grain handling capacity in Canada, Thunder Bay is in a strong position to take advantage of continued improvements in grain production.

Heney further attributes the uptick in port volume to a number of factors, most prevalent being the elimination of the Canadian Wheat Board’s monopoly on Western Canadian grain.

“Since that took place in 2012, grain companies now control the movement of their grain to market. Thunder Bay is the largest export port on the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway System; most Canadian grain companies operate elevator facilities in Thunder Bay and utilize the Seaway to transport grain for direct export and to their elevators in Quebec.”

Heney said the Wheat Board’s demise resulted in a major waterfront development in late 2014 with Richardson International re-opening the former Viterra ‘C’ elevator.  It increased the port’s grain throughput capacity by more than two million tonnes.

He pointed to another agribusiness, AGT Food and Ingredients, that’s established a presence in the port.

The company is utilizing a loop track facility to export lentils directly from Thunder Bay to international markets on ocean-going vessels.

“There is an understanding of the Seaway and Thunder Bay as an efficient, effective route through which to access those markets,” said Heney.

More growth is building through inbound cargoes of windmill parts, mining equipment, machinery and structural steel heading for Western Canada. General cargos through Keefer Terminal will top 30,000 tonnes by season’s end, a 20-year high in overseas shipments.