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Grain exports keep St. Lawrence Seaway ships busy

Grain shipments through the St. Lawrence Seaway are up 7 per cent this season, continuing the pace set last year when ships carried the largest volume of grain through the navigation system in 14 years.

According to The St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation, grain shipments (including Canadian and U.S. grain) totaled 1.9 million metric tons from April 2 to May 31.

The Port of Thunder Bay, the largest grain port on the Great Lakes, reported that its grain shipments were off to the strongest start this season since 1997, as the major handlers continue to export the harvest from 2014.  So far this season, Algoma Central Corporation’s ships have carried 50 per cent more grain, mainly from Thunder Bay to Quebec for transshipment overseas.

Shipments of Ontario soybeans and spring wheat through the Port of Hamilton are also tracking ahead of last year.

Richardson International, Cargill, CWB Ltd., Viterra, P&H Group and ADM among others use the Great Lakes-Seaway to move grain to both domestic mills and for export to countries in Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

General cargo shipments, including steel, aluminum, wind turbines and other heavy machinery used by Great Lakes manufacturers, were also up by 5 per cent to 629,000 metric tons for the season.

The Port of Thunder Bay received 20 wind turbine components from Brazil for a wind farm near Wawa, Ontario and steel from Spain for the first time destined for construction projects in Western Canada.  Next month, tug and barge company McKeil Marine will transport huge refrigeration Cold Boxes from Port Robinson on the Welland Canal to Chicago to be transferred to another barge for the trip to Calvert City, Kentucky.

Despite these star performers, year-to-date total cargo shipments via the St. Lawrence Seaway were 6.4 million metric tons, down by 7 per cent compared to 2014 due to low global prices decreasing demand for North American iron ore and coal exports.  Iron ore shipments via the Seaway were down 30 per cent, while coal shipments were down 27.5 per cent compared to the same period the year before.


Bruce Hodgson, director of market development for the St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation, said: “Grain exports are driving shipping traffic on the St. Lawrence Seaway this season and we are optimistic that it will continue to be a strong performer this year and help to offset the decreases we are seeing in iron ore and coal due to the steep decline in global prices.  An upswing in Great Lakes manufacturing activity means we’re also expecting a good year for higher value cargoes such as wind turbines for the energy sector, steel and aluminum for the automotive industry and large factory equipment.”

Stephen Brooks, President of the Chamber of Marine Commerce, said: “These numbers are proof-positive of the importance of the Great Lakes-Seaway for U.S. trade and why we need to continue working with governments to reduce barriers and make this vital gateway as competitive as possible. Over the past few years, Canada’s largest grain companies have made a major commitment by investing in marine terminals along the navigation system and we’re now seeing the results of these efforts.” 

Tim Heney, President and CEO of the Thunder Bay Port Authority, said: “Grain continues to surge at the Port of Thunder Bay following the dramatic increases last year.  Post-Canadian Wheat Board monopoly, the free market has turned out to be a good news story for our port with the major Canadian grain companies seeing the value of shipping more grain through the Great Lakes-Seaway system and fully exploiting the grain terminal investments made over the last few years in Thunder Bay and other ports along the waterway.”

Bruce Wood, President and CEO of the Hamilton Port Authority, said: “Total tonnages through the Port of Hamilton so far this year are on-par with 2014, reaching just over 1.2 million metric tons by the end of May. While the corn crop has been somewhat challenged this year, Ontario wheat and soybeans transiting the Port of Hamilton on their way to export markets are both tracking stronger in 2015. Our expanded terminal capacity means we are ready to help Ontario farmers get their product to markets all over the world, where high-quality Ontario grain is in high demand.”


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About the Chamber of Marine Commerce

The Chamber of Marine Commerce is a bi-national association that represents more than 150 marine industry stakeholders including major Canadian and American shippers, ports, terminals and marine service providers, as well as domestic and international ship owners.  The Chamber represents the interests of its members by addressing government issues affecting marine transportation.  Advocacy extends to federal, state/provincial and municipal levels of government.

Media Contact

Julia Fields

Chamber of Marine Commerce


About the Chamber of Marine Commerce

The Chamber of Marine Commerce (CMC) is a bi-national association that represents diverse marine industry stakeholders including major Canadian and American shippers, ports, terminals and marine service providers, as well as Canadian domestic and international ship owners. The Chamber advocates for safe, sustainable, harmonized and competitive policy and regulation that recognizes the marine transportation system's significant advantages in the Great Lakes, St. Lawrence, Coastal and Arctic regions.

Media Contact:
Jason Card
Chamber of Marine Commerce
(613) 447 5401