Original Published 21:44 Jun 07, 2022

By Sandi Krasowski, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

THUNDER BAY, ONT. — The Port of Thunder Bay is seeing some ups and downs as they navigate through the first two months of the shipping season.

Chris Heikkinen, the port’s director of business development and communications, says there has been a substantial increase in potash volumes passing through the port, as inbound shipments of general cargo at Keefer Terminal are strong yet grain shipments are well below average.

“Grain shipments have started off slow to start the season and are down considerably by about 45 per cent,” he said. “That’s a result of the poor yields on the Prairies last season because the harvest was impacted significantly by drought. Until the new crop of 2022 starts rolling in, we will probably continue to see reduced grain shipments for the first half of the shipping season.”

Grain shipments through the end of May decreased by one million metric tons year-over-year with year-to-date railcar unloads of grain in Thunder Bay down 32 per cent.

On the bright side, Heikkinen said potash shipments have actually quadrupled over where they were at this point in the season last year.

“ There’s a lot of potash moving from Western Canada through the Seaway and out to places like Europe, Brazil and North Africa and this is likely a partial result of the war in Ukraine that has caused sanctions to be placed on Russian potash,” he said.

In less than two months, Thunder Bay terminals have loaded out 280,000 metric tons of potash — half of the port’s yearly average. Canada is the world’s largest exporter of potash with Thunder Bay being the only export port for the commodity on the Seaway.

Meanwhile, Keefer Terminal has been busy bringing in a lot of steel products. Nearly 10,000 tons of steel pipe and steel rail was handled at the terminal in May alone.

“Our most recent shipment was an inbound cargo from Europe of wind turbine tower sections that the blades spin on,” Heikkinen said.

“Right now those are priorities for getting loaded onto rail cars for shipment out west to two new wind farm projects.”

Heikkinen says, “Overall, there’s always ups and downs and I think that the grain industry will weather the storm, and provided there’s a better crop this year, things will pick up again in the fall.”

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