St. Lawrence Seaway grain shipments surge, offsetting iron, coal weakness

MONTREAL – Western Canada’s bumper crop, as well as output from Ontario, have boosted grain shipments through the St. Lawrence Seaway by 50 per cent to 2.7 million tonnes so far this shipping season.

The St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corp., the agency that manages the waterway, says combined U.S. and Canadian grain shipments were up 38 per cent from March 25 through June 30.

Despite the increased grain traffic, however, overall shipments through the seaway are down seven per cent to 11.1 million tonnes due to decreases in iron ore and coal traffic.

The seaway management corporation says shipments of grain from Western Canada and Ontario have surged by 50 per cent to 2.7 million tonnes so far this shipping season.

Meanwhile, the Port of Thunder Bay, Ont., had its busiest June in 17 years as domestic and ocean carriers loaded more than 965,000 tonnes of grains in June.

Grain shipments through the Port of Hamilton soared 70 per cent to more than 380,000 tonnes this season.

While western grain traders are using the seaway to export a bumper grain crop, Ontario farmers are using Hamilton’s expanded facilities to ship canola, corn, soybeans and wheat, mainly to international markets in Europe and the Middle East.

Bruce Hodgson, director of market development for the seaway, says the corporation anticipates higher grain activity will continue throughout the summer.

Last year’s bumper grain crop of 76 million tonnes — 50 per cent more than average — should allow seaway shipments to increase throughout the year after slipping 3.2 per cent in 2013 because the crop, although a record, was quite late.