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St. Lawrence Seaway reports cargo volumes up 5%


St. Catharines, ON — The St. Lawrence Seaway and Great Lakes ports are reporting significant growth in cargo volumes that is expected to carry through in the final two weeks of the 2018 season.

Overall cargo volumes through the St. Lawrence Seaway from March 29 to November 30 topped 36 million metric tons, up 5.3 per cent over the same period in 2017.

“We expect the busy momentum from November to carry through to when the Seaway closes at the end of December,” said Terence Bowles, President and CEO of The St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation. “Overall cargo volumes will meet our forecasts to top 40 million metric tons in 2018. Combined with the 2017 performance, St. Lawrence Seaway shipping has grown 14 per cent over the past two years, underlining the importance of this trade corridor to the success of the many industries we serve in the region.”

Road salt was a key performer in November, as cities and towns prepared for the long winter ahead.

Canadian grain exports through the Seaway were also a highlight in November and a flurry of deliveries have continued into December as the new harvests continue to come through. Year-to-November Canadian Seaway grain shipments totaled 8.2 million metric tons, up 15 per cent over last year.  Prairie and Ontario wheat sales are benefitting from a smaller Russian harvest as a result of weather conditions. Canadian corn exports this year have benefitted from preferential access to European Union markets combined with retaliatory tariffs on U.S. products.

Ports throughout the Great Lakes have seen the impact of business growth too. The Port of Hamilton surpassed 10 million metric tons in November, topping their 2017 year-long total of 9.8 million metric tons of cargo.

“The Port’s successful cargo year has been driven by large gains in exports of Ontario-grown grain, and imports of fertilizer and petroleum products,” said Ian Hamilton, President & CEO, Hamilton Port Authority. “Along with our terminal operators, we’re driven to support Canada’s trade diversification. And it’s working: the amount of cargo shipped to and from overseas ports (non-Canada/US) has jumped 68 per cent compared to last year.”

The Port of Thunder Bay also had a strong month, in large part due to high ocean vessel traffic, a trend that is continuing in December and making for a strong end to the shipping season.

“Twenty ocean vessels called the port in November to load or unload internationally-traded cargo,” said Tim Heney, President and CEO of the Thunder Bay Port Authority.  We anticipate a total of 400 vessel (international and domestic) calls for the season, which is slightly higher than the 393 calls in 2017.”

Total cargo volumes in November were slightly lower than last year, but the Port expects a rebound before the season closes mid-January. “The final month of the season is expected to be the busiest of the year, with a projected 1.4 million metric tons of cargo to be handled,” adds Heney. “That would be a 25 per cent increase over December 2017 due mainly to higher grain shipments. 2018 grain volumes are anticipated to be slightly higher than the 2017 final tally.”

The Port of Johnstown had a busy November in comparison to 2017 with a total of 151,000 metric tons of cargo moved over the dock, more than doubling last year’s numbers. Marine traffic included 80,000 metric tons of soybeans and 8,000 metric tons of corn exported while 63,000 metric tons of salt was imported.

“We are currently expecting four vessels of salt totaling approximately 110,000 metric tons which will bring our total salt received for the year to around 550,000 metric tons,” said Robert Dalley, General Manager of the Port of Johnstown. “While this is one vessel shy of last year’s record salt intake of 575,000, it is still above our average for salt imports and is much needed as it is shaping up to be a long winter.”

Dalley noted that the early start of the 2018 harvest in Eastern Ontario coupled with pricing and availability of vessels has resulted in the remainder of the soybean harvest staying in storage and being moved in spring. The Port is not expecting anymore grain movement by vessel in December.


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