MONTREAL, Que. -- St. Lawrence Seaway officials are predicting a 3% increase in traffic on the waterway to 38.6 million tonnes in 2012, thanks to buoyant foreign demand for iron ore and coal. This would follow a 2.5% increase in 2011 to 37.5 million tonnes.
Such traffic levels are a far cry from the peaks of more than 66 million tonnes in the late 1970s. But changing trade and transportation patterns for grain in particular away from Europe to Asia have had a lasting impact, along with alternative routes via rail and the Mississippi River for various commodities.
Coal exports are expected to be a highlight of the Seaway season in 2012 as was the case in 2011, when producers in Montana routed coal by rail to Great Lakes ports. From there, the cargo was loaded onto Lakers for transshipment at the Port of Québec to ocean vessels destined for Europe.
McKeil Marine’s tug/barge, the Wilf Seymour/Alouette Spirit, used to transport aluminum ingots, was the first vessel through Lock 3 of the Welland Canal on March 22 at the opening of commercial navigation.
At the St. Lambert Lock at the entrance of the Seaway in Montreal, first vessel entering the system was the CSL Pineglen on its way to Thunder Bay to pick up grain.
Bob Bryson, vice president of the P&H Grain Group, and Donald Gallienne from Aluminerie Alouette, served as keynote speakers at the opening Top Hat ceremony in St. Catharines.
In his remarks, Bryson declared: “For Parrish & Heimbecker Limited, this is an exciting spring. After the first fall shipping season out of the new Port of Hamilton terminal, we are gearing up for a new era of marketing opportunity resulting from Canadian government changes to the Canadian Wheat Board Act.
“Grain prices are strong, export demand looks positive and our domestic food processing industry is solid and positioned well for growth. The business headlines are full of investment deals being proposed and the world has a whole new appreciation for agriculture.”
Bryson also reiterated that P&H has been working on a plan to expand its terminal capacity on the Great Lakes by increasing its stake in Thirdcoast Ltd.. which operates grain terminals in Goderich and Port Colborne, Ont., to meet growing demand. In March, P&H announced a bid to acquire full control of Thirdcoast, in which its existing interest was about 28%.