After a slow start to the shipping season, shipments through the St. Lawrence Seaway rebounded strongly during the past three months as Prairie grain stockpiles were moved through the Seaway at an increasing clip. Total cargo tonnage from August 1 to October 31 reached 14.5 million tonnes, up 15.1 per cent over the same period last year. Year-to-date cargo tonnage as of October 31 registered at 29.6 million tonnes, versus 28.3 million tonnes during the prior year. Year-to-date grain shipments (including Canada and the U.S.) totalled 8.4 million tonnes, an increase of 49.9 per cent compared to 2013. This increase was offset by a 26.5 per cent decrease in iron ore volumes through the system and an 11 per cent decrease in coal tonnage. 

Bruce Hodgson, Director of Market Development, St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation commented: “Autumn is typically the St. Lawrence Seaway’s busiest time as North American steel mills rely on our waterway to stockpile iron ore and coal in advance of the winter months and cities across Canada and the U.S. bring in much-needed salt for road safety. In October, farmers started shipping the new harvest via the Seaway to countries around the world. This activity emphasizes how important the navigation system is to the economic recovery and success of the Canadian and U.S. economies.”

With looming labour troubles having been referred to binding arbitration, the Seaway will remain open for the remaining two months of the season. If it manages to surpass 39.055 million tonnes in overall volume, it will set a five-year record, and will be on its way in approaching pre-recession shipping levels.