Next year, it will be 100 years since James Richardson handpicked the location for Richardson International’s port terminal in Thunder Bay. In 2018, “Richardson is proud to be celebrating its 100th anniversary in Thunder Bay,” says Gerry Heinrichs, Director of Terminal Operations at Richardson International’s Thunder Bay Terminal. The port is a hub for grain shipments to the U.S., Mexico and South America.
Since 1918, the terminal has undergone many updates to make it the
efficient terminal it is today. Construction began at the terminal in 1917 and on January 3, 1919, the new facility received its first railcar load of grain from the Prairies. At the time, the port was a prime location to be accessed by ship, road or rail.
Further enhancements in 1922 and 1930 added 3.5 million bushels of new capacity to the terminal. After the upgrades, newspaper accounts described the facility as “one of the world’s largest, most modern and fastest terminal elevators.” The terminal received other enhancements over the years, including a new locomotive in 1990, a three-year project that began in 2007 to update the dock and the steel bumpers were replaced with rubber ones in 2008.
In 2013, Richardson acquired the Current River terminal from Viterra, which doubled Richardson’s capacity. Since the acquired terminal had not been in operation for three years, Richardson spent four months cleaning and restoring the terminal before it received its first rail cars in October 2013 and first vessel in November of that year. The Current River terminal handles mainly canola, oats and wheat.
Today, Richardson owns the two port terminals in Thunder Bay with a combined storage capacity of 440,000 metric tonnes. Richardson’s heritage terminal has a storage capacity of 210,000 tonnes while the Current River terminal has 230,000 tonnes of storage. Combined, the terminals handle approximately 2.5 million metric tonnes of grain annually. Richardson’s Thunder Bay facilities are the furthest inland port terminals connecting Western Canada to the Atlantic Ocean. The terminals—along with Richardson’s terminal in Hamilton, Ontario—are recognized among the Great Lakes’ top handlers of durum wheat, canola and oats.
Last September, the terminal broke a record by completing the CSL Welland with 30,793 tonnes of wheat, which was headed for Richardson’s terminal in Sorel-Tracy, QC. This was the most the team had ever loaded on a vessel at the terminal and it came close to breaking a record for the Port of Thunder Bay. The terminal was also awarded the Association of Canadian Port Authorities Merit of Merit in 2016.
This year, the port’s shipping season began on March 24 when the MV Manitoulin arrived at Richardson’s terminal, which was the earliest opening for the port since 2008. The Thunder Bay Port Authority, the City of Thunder Bay and the Thunder Bay Chamber of Commerce held the annual Opening of Navigation “Top Hat” ceremony at Richardson’s main terminal where Manitoulin Captain John Carlson received the ceremonial top hat.
“Richardson’s Thunder Bay employees are truly invested in supporting their community,” says Heinrichs. Every year, employees hold a United Way campaign where they participate in events like the Plane Pull, where the team came in second place last year, and United Way Pretzel Day. In 2016, Richardson Thunder Bay employees raised over $23,000, which was matched by the Richardson Foundation, bringing the total donation to over $46,000 for United Way Thunder Bay.