In 2004, Thunder Bay Port Authority implemented a new strategic direction, placing substantial effort toward attracting oversized project cargo through Keefer Terminal, the Authority’s general cargo facility which is located centrally in the natural deepwater port. Thirteen years and over $15 millions of investment later, Keefer Terminal is now a busy project cargo hub, handling bi-weekly shipments of dimensional cargo, both inbound and outbound for the Western Canadian market. From scale-tipping pressure vessels to windmill towers, blades and nacelles, Thunder Bay has earned a reputation as a reliable solution for dimensional cargo challenges.

Several developments have taken place at Keefer in recent years, both in business development and infrastructure upgrades.

The capture of inbound steel product has been a very successful venture at the Terminal. Logistec, a primary provider of stevedoring services at Keefer, has been handling steadily increasing volumes of steel since the first shipment in the fall of 2015.

“Steel is undoubtedly a prominent cargo for the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Seaway, and we have the right people and equipment in place to handle structural beams, rail, coil, pipe, and plate in Thunder Bay. The competitive rates and flexible timeframes we can offer help make it a practical destination for break-bulk headed to the Prairies and Western Canada,” says Frank Montecalvo, Sales Manager at Logistec. “The Port Authority has made strategic investments over the years to diversify its cargo base, and it’s our role to provide exceptional service for these customers.”

Heavy lift and complex shipments of project cargo also make use of Keefer Terminal’s ample laydown area and over 500,000 square feet of warehouse space. The Port Authority provides access to a Liebherr 320 mobile harbour crane. Keefer Terminal is connected to the TransCanada Highway, and Logistec works with local partners to provide specialised trucking services.

“We’ve discharged numerous out-of-gauge pieces to rail for both CN and CP, including massive hydroelectric transformers and industrial reactors that might have previously gone through Houston” says Vasko Popovic, Operations Manager for Logistec. “Customers are recognizing the advantage of Thunder Bay as the western-most point in the Highway H2O network, plus bond fees and customs clearances aren’t an issue when shipping through Canada as of the point of discharge.”

The availability of both Spliethoff and Fednav liner services provides shippers with a convenient option from Europe through the Great Lakes, not only for project cargo but for break-bulk such as bagged pellets and wind energy components.

When it comes to rail access, Thunder Bay has the highest module clearance envelopes in Canada. At Keefer, Logistec is CN and CP served, and offers ship-to-rail direct loading and unloading for standard and oversized cargo, up to six railcars at once. “Since Logistec began operating at the Port in 1985, it has unloaded wind energy components, transformers, and oversized equipment and other pieces for the mining, oil, an­d gas industries,” says Popovic, “in addition to serving both traditional and direct-discharge grain facilities.”

Keefer’s cargo volumes reached a 19-year high in 2016, with a significant and varied slate of project and breakbulk cargo shipments. The 2017 season will rival that record. A series of electrical transformer cargoes arrived early in the season for rail transshipment. Other commodities handled as of June include a full complement of wind energy cargo, rubber conveyor rolls, modular buildings, and of course, steel beams and rails.