Potash shipments have made a strong comeback in June reaching 31 per cent higher than June 2022.

Chris Heikkinen, director of business development with the Port of Thunder Bay, says the reason for the uptick is “it’s timing more than anything.”

“We did get off to that slower start so the shippers are essentially just making up time,” he said. “We still remain behind last year’s levels and more or less they’re just catching up. I think it’s just the timing of when the ships were booked.”

Heikkinen called June an “exemplary month” with an increase of ships arriving at the terminal. 

Grain volumes have shown a considerable recovery with totals of more than 10 per cent or 760,000 metric tons higher than last year.

There were 734 metric tons of green energy infrastructure, such as wind turbine components, that arrived from overseas destinations and passed through the port this June. Heikkinen says the turbine components continue on to western Canada by rail. 

Shipments of rail track continue to arrive at the port as well. Wednesday morning, crews finished discharging the latest rail shipment arrival at Keefer Terminal.  Shipments of steel pipe, which is a newer commodity seen at the port, will start to arrive this month.

“We’re going to be having regular shipments of pipe starting in the next couple of weeks and really moving forward through the remainder of the shipping season. So that’s going to be the highlight key for the next four or five months,” he noted.

“It’s something that came around maybe about five years ago and shipments have been growing every season. It’s one of those positive things.”

The steel pipe is destined for western Canada where Heikkinen says they will undergo further (value-added) manufacturing. 

Cruise ship arrivals were also included in the port’s June numbers with seven visits to the port this June. This number was compared to the nine visits through the entire 2022 season. Further cruise ship port calls are expected throughout the remainder of the tourism season.

Heikkinen says the port is undergoing major rail upgrades. Almost 10,000 linear feet of track and rail will be upgraded. 

“That’s really going to help us because rail is becoming utilized more and more at Keefer Terminal by the cargo that is transiting the terminal,” he said. “Upgrading that rail is really critical to continuing to grow.”

Heikkinen added that the increase in arriving cargo at the port is more efficiently shipped via rail than by truck across Canada.

By Sandi Krasowski, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Jul 14, 2023 at 10:00

This item reprinted with permission from   The Chronicle-Journal   Thunder Bay, Ontario
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