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Grain trade bright spot in slow start to St. Lawrence Seaway shipping season


Ottawa, Ontario Grain shipments through the St. Lawrence Seaway started to rebound in May and were a reason for optimism after a slow start for the shipping season.

According to the St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation, total cargo shipments on the waterway were just over 8 million tonnes from March 22 until May 31, down 11.68 per cent compared to the same period last year.  An icy spring slowed trade of stone and other construction materials through system channels like St. Marys River, which had a knock-on effect on the Seaway, while iron ore and coal shipments decreased due to lower steel production.

Total grain shipments, however, began to rebound in May bringing the year-to-date shipments to 1.8 million tonnes, up 7.67 per cent over the same period in 2012.

“After a slow start, Canadian grain shipments started trending in a more positive direction in May and American grain has returned to its normal levels after a disappointing 2012.  We are seeing demand from North Africa markets for both products,” said Bruce Hodgson, market development director for the St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation. “Both countries had delayed plantings this year, so we are optimistic that there will be a strong surge towards the end of the year when the new crops are in the system.”

Hodgson added that recent deals between agri-businesses over grain assets at the Port of Thunder Bay showed that the major players still view the Great Lakes-Seaway System as a valued route to ship their products to the Atlantic Ocean and to overseas markets.

Tim Heney, CEO of the Thunder Bay Port Authority, said: “The Glencore merger has closed and the former Viterra c elevator has been acquired by Richardson effectively doubling their capacity in the port. Parrish & Heimbecker has entered into a joint venture with Cargill at the port and ADM has purchased Canada Malting. We remain confident that Thunder Bay and the Seaway will remain a competitive route for grain shipments for many years to come.”

Separately, the Port of Windsor has had a strong start to its season with total shipments of 1.6 million tonnes from March 22 until May 31, up 28 per cent compared to last year.  Increased shipments of construction aggregates, liquid asphalt and canola all contributed to the rise.

David Cree, CEO of the Windsor Port Authority, said: “Activity at the Port of Windsor has been brisk with stone, sand and other construction aggregates from Ohio flowing across Lake Erie for the major infrastructure projects underway in the region, particularly the Rt. Hon. Herb Gray Parkway.  We are also very encouraged by the volume of liquid asphalt and canola, which have both recorded strong starts to the season.  Liquid asphalt is shipped through the recently enlarged Sterling Fuels Marine terminal and reflects the increased demand generated by local road construction. ”

The Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway maritime industry supports 227,000 jobs in the U.S. and Canada, and annually generates $14 billion in salary and wages, $34.6 billion in business revenue, and $4.6 billion in federal, state/provincial and local taxes. North American farmers, steel producers, construction firms, food manufacturers, and power generators depend on the 164 million metric tons of essential raw materials and finished products that are moved annually on the system.

For more information: Andrew Bogora, Communications and Public Relations Officer, the St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation on abogora@seaway.caor (613) 932-5170 x 3285.

Follow Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway shipping news on http://www.localhost:10089 and on Twitter @MarineDelivers.


Marine Delivers is a bi-national, industry collaboration that aims to demonstrate the positive economic and environmental benefits, safety, energy efficiency, and sustainability of the shipping industry throughout the Great Lakes-Seaway System. The Marine Delivers initiative is administered by the American Great Lakes Ports Association in the United States, and the Chamber of Marine Commerce in Canada. 

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