August year-to-date Seaway shipments (from April 1 to August 30) totalled 19.3 million metric tonnes. During the same time period of 2019, Seaway volumes were 21.1 million tonnes, which were down from 21.6 million tonnes in 2018.

Year-to-date shipments were down in all categories, except by 13.3 per cent increase in grain shipments, which represented 31 per cent of all Seaway shipments on a year-to-date basis.

“It’s great to see the continued strong numbers for Canadian grain shipments, which has helped offset significant declines in key cargo sectors such as iron ore, dry bulk and petroleum,” said Terence Bowles, President and CEO of The St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation. “The Seaway has been a vital export corridor for Canadian farmers to reach world markets during the pandemic. We’re hopeful that grain numbers will remain strong with the new crop harvests in the autumn.”

The port of Thunder Bay continues to see above-average grain shipments. This is a reflection of the continuing international demand for wheat through the global pandemic,” said Tim Heney, Port CEO.  The Port reported that it was on track for its best cargo year in decades as ships lined up to load Prairie wheat and canola destined for Europe, South America, the Caribbean, the Middle East and Africa. Port facilities have handled an extra million tonnes of grain compared to this time last year, a 27 per cent increase. However, Heney added that grain volumes through the port have been trending upwards since the Canadian Wheat Board was dismantled in 2013. “Grain volumes are always impacted by the quality of harvests and fluctuating demand from world markets. But Canadian grain handlers are now marketing their own wheat and also looking to maximize efficiencies in their supply chains. Thunder Bay has the fastest rail-car turnaround and ship turn-around times and that has continued and even improved during the pandemic, despite extensive extra safety protocols.”

Burlington-based ship operator McKeil Marine reported that its grain volumes were up 13 per cent in August, and it announced this month that it had acquired a bulker vessel from Europe that will be delivered to Canada to add to its domestic fleet. Built in 2012, M/V Juliana will be re-flagged as a Canadian vessel and be renamed the Harvest Spirit.  Harvest Spirit will service a long-standing customer of McKeil that is striving to meet the strong market demand for Canadian grain, soybean and canola products. McKeil’s President, Scott Bravener, highlighted:  “Nationally, our grain markets continue to perform well. In fact, the demand for Canadian grain is booming, which is particularly encouraging news in these challenging times. Our grain exports are bolstering overall cargo shipment volumes in the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Seaway and Harvest Spirit will allow for McKeil’s continued growth in this robust domestic market.”

Hamilton-Oshawa Port Authority continues to see grain numbers improve, with grain exports hitting the million-tonne mark in August. The ports of Hamilton and Oshawa provide critical export infrastructure for Ontario-grown corn, wheat and soybeans. “We have attracted more than $200 million in new agri-food sector investment at our ports inside the last decade,” said Ian Hamilton, President & CEO. “As crop yields continue to improve, and as new trade agreements like CETA create more export opportunities, these ports will be even more essential for Canadian producers.”

With the 2020 shipping season in full swing, bulk cargo shipments have remained strong at the port of Toronto as shipments of cement, steel, salt and sugar continue to be received. Geoffrey Wilson, CEO, PortsToronto, said: “Though the global COVID-19 pandemic has had an impact at the port, with federal regulations effectively cancelling the 2020 cruise ship season, port tonnage has remained consistent with this time last year and Port of Toronto is well positioned for the remainder of the shipping season.”

Port Windsor reported that it has bounced back from a slow spring start caused by the delay in the Seaway opening and the Ontario COVID Emergency Order that shut down construction for several weeks. From a spring decline of 18 per cent compared to 2019, overall cargo volumes have surged to recover more than 12 per cent of that deficit over the summer. Steve Salmons, President and CEO, said: “Grain shipments are up 12 per cent over 2019, the highest in more than five years. Aggregates continue their rebound in response to several large regional road projects, and the construction of the Gordie Howe International Bridge. Salt shipments are also maintaining their historic high levels in preparation for the coming winter months.