In an otherwise dreary landscape of significantly lower volumes passing through the St. Lawrence Seaway, Canadian grain shipments topped 6.2 million tonnes at the end of September, maintaining its 20 per cent increase over the 2019 season. Overall Seaway cargo shipments (from April 1 to September 30) totaled 23.2 million tonnes, down 8 per cent, with major volumes lost in shipments of iron ore (down 20.6%), dry bulk (down 12.6%) and liquid bulk (down 27.4%).

While Terence Bowles, Seaway President and CEO, expects a continuation of strong grain shipments for the remainder of the year, no such optimism is in evidence for other cargo categories.

Port of Thunder Bay reported that grain shipments up to the end of September totaled 5.97 million metric tons, an increase of 23 per cent over the same period in 2019.  “Grain shipments at the port have been up every month this season to meet world demand for bread and pasta. All of that grain was from last year’s Prairie crops,” said Tim Heney, Port President and CEO. “We now have more than 500,000 metric tons from the new harvest in storage waiting to get shipped out on vessels. Rail car unloads at the port over the last weeks continue to be significantly up compared to 2019. We have a busy fall ahead of us.”

Port of Johnstown’s marine revenue numbers are up over 30 per cent at of the end of the third quarter, attributed to project cargo being stored at the Port’s newly developed facilities. Marine cargo movement is approximately 50,000 tonnes below September 2019 figures due to the delay of two salt vessels until October. “The port is positioned to have a record year; however, a lot will depend on the 2020 harvest and the ability to flow grain through the system. This will largely depend on the timing and availability of both Salties and Lakers to pull the grain from the port’s stores. Lower soybean market value has also contributed to the delay in sales from the farmers to the brokers, however, a recent increase in soybean prices has resulted in more sales for October and we should see more movement of soybeans,” said Port General Manager Robert Dalley.

Windsor Port Authority is seeing the highs and lows of the 2020 shipping season, as year-to-date total tonnage through September was 3.3 million tonnes, down 8 per cent from this time last year. While the Port expects grain exports will continue at historic levels through the end of year, up 15.7 per cent in September, steel shipments are down 56 per cent.

As of Sept. 30th, Hamilton’s total cargo (including Oshawa) was up 15 per cent over the same month in 2019. Although the year-to-date overall cargo total for the port of Hamilton is still 13 per cent less than 2019’s total, the gap is shrinking. Across the lake, the port of Oshawa has defied the odds – as its year-to-date tonnage total is up 15 per cent, led by steel and cement cargo.

“This summer we were bracing ourselves for a significant drop in cargo volumes, as all types of cargo were being affected,” said Ian Hamilton, President & CEO of HOPA Ports. “Though it’s still early, we’re quite pleased to see the trend reversing. This pandemic may have changed how we work, but we’ve never stopped – the integrity of our supply chains has been maintained and at this moment, there’s more than $21 million worth of construction projects on the go at the Port of Hamilton. That’s the most we’ve ever had going on at one time.”