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 8.077 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. Shipments of dry bulk were down by 26.6 per cent, compared to the year-to-date number for 2012. Although the month of May saw a return to more normal tonnages, May tonnage of 4.31 million tonnes represented a shortfall of 281,000 tonnes, compared to the month of May of 2012.

Grain shipments, however, began to rebound in May bringing the year-to-date shipments to 1.78 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 Saint 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 Thunder Bay Port Authority, said: “The Glencore merger has closed and the former Viterra 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, Port of Windsor 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 Windsor Port Authority, said: “Activity at the port 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. ”