By William Hryb

Thunder Bay’s strategic location has made the region a natural meeting and trading site as far back as the Paleo-Indian civilization 11,000 years ago. The first Europeans arrived in the 17th century establishing a series of fur trading posts, and in 1803 the North West Company founded Fort William. Later in the century, Prince Arthur’s Landing (Port Arthur) was established, just a few miles from Fort William, sparking a rivalry that would last until 1970 when the two cities were amalgamated into Thunder Bay. The region developed into a vital transportation center for shipping enormous quantities of grain, potash and coal. Recently, project cargoes destined for Western Canada have added to Thunder Bay’s high profile.

Terminal operators at Thunder Bay serve as a crucial link to a robust transportation system fundamental to the Canadian economy. The port’s strategic central location, in the middle of the Trans-Canada Highway system, is supported by essential railway lines, and is the location of the largest outbound port on the St. Lawrence Seaway System.

Offering a wide range of product sectors, from grain, coal, potash, dry bulk, petroleum, and chemical products, to a shipyard and cruise ship facilities, Thunder Bay can boast a vigorous transportation hub. A snapshot view of terminals operating at the Lake Superior port provides a glimpse of what Thunder Bay has to contribute.



Thunder Bay has the distinction of having the largest grain storage capacity in North America. Grains make up about 75 per cent of the Port’s throughput at its eight grain terminals. The terminals have the capacity to store over 1.2 million tonnes of wheat, coarse grains, feed grains, durum, oilseed, and grain by-products. Combined with load rates that can reach 2,800 tonnes per hour and vessel turnaround times measured from 12 to 24 hours, grain loading operations are efficient to say the least. Grain shipments accounted for 5.46 million tonnes in 2013.

Richardson International Ltd.: Richardson Elevator and Current River Elevator – combined capacity of 439,500 tonnes

Viterra Inc.: Viterra A Elevator and Viterra B Elevator – combined capacity 362,600 tonnes

Superior Elevator ULC: Superior Elevator – capacity 176,000 tonnes

Canada Malting Ltd.: Canada Malting Elevator – capacity 62,800 tonnes

Mission Terminals Inc.: Mission Terminal Elevator – capacity 136,500 tonnes

Western Grain By-Products Storage Ltd.: Western 10 Elevator – capacity 40,000 tonnes



Coal and potash shipments, both to domestic and export markets, have given the Port a solid reputation for productive bulk-handling operations. Railcar to dumper pit to conveyor belt to vessel creates optimum loading operations. In 2013, coal accounted for 603,000 tonnes shipped through Thunder Bay Terminals Ltd., while 317,170 tonnes of potash were handled between Thunder Bay Terminals Ltd and MobilEx Ltd. Dry bulk accounted for 134,269 tonnes shipped through Valley Camp Terminals and Lafarge.

Thunder Bay Terminals Ltd.: Thunder Bay Terminals Ltd. is the link between ship and rail for the transport of low-sulphur bituminous and lignite coal from mines in western Canada. It also handles metallurgical coal and other dry bulk cargoes such as domestic and export potash shipments. Offering a 262-metre berth, the site is served by rail connections by CP Rail. Load rates for coal and potash can reach an astounding 6,000 tonnes per hour at this facility.

MobilEx Terminal Ltd.: MobilEx Terminals Ltd. operates a two conveyor belt system recently acquired from CN Rail. At this time, the terminal primarily utilizes its system to ship potash. Plans to ship grain, directly from railcars to vessels, are being explored.

Valley Camp Terminal Inc.: Valley Camp operates its site as a trans-load facility for rail to ships, to truck, or to ground for storage and reload from rail or ground to truck. Salt from Windsor is regularly shipped and stored at the facility. The terminal has two cargo-handling areas for dry bulk and can accommodate vessels to 304 metres. It has outside storage for more than two million tonnes of cargo.

Lafarge: The Lafarge terminal supplies crushed rock, stone, sand and gravel for commercial, residential, and industrial construction sectors. The company offers services in product delivery and industry expertise



Keefer Terminal: Keefer Terminal includes 5 hectares of storage buildings for steel, bagged goods, machinery, and forest products. The facility has 6.4 hectares of outside storage with 750 metres of berths linked directly to rail and truck accessibility. Keefer Intermodal covers over 32 hectares with controlled access and security to protect cargo. It also contains a 5,300 square metre clear span building with truck docking facilities and indoor rail connections. Additions in 2012 included expansion to the facility’s acres of laydown areas used for storing and staging project cargo, as well as the facility’s acquisition a Liebherr LHM 320 mobile harbour crane. The 90-acre site includes a modern 10-acre rail intermodal yard serviced by CN and CP. Keefer Terminal has four warehouses of storage space, including 55,000 square feet of heated storage. The warehouses are used in many capacities, including storing temperature-sensitive project cargoes and to facilitate fabrication of cargoes upon vessel discharge.



Suncor Energy Inc.: Suncor Terminal at Thunder Bay has storage facilities for gasoline products offering supplies to local markets.



Pollard Highway Products Ltd.: Liquid Calcium Chloride used for road dust control.



Pool 6 Cruise Ship Terminal: Pool 6 Cruise Ship Terminal was established in 2005. The terminal has garnered world-wide attention for its first class facilities for cruise ships operating in the Great Lakes.

With the infrastructure assets the port is known for, Thunder Bay’s future as an important transportation center appears all but guaranteed.