By William Hryb

‘Double whammy’!! Capt. Karl Fernandes couldn’t have said it better when he and his crew of Barbados-registered MV Federal Schelde celebrated the opening of international shipping at the port of Thunder Bay. The 34,000 metric tonne red-hulled ship glided into dock at G3 Elevator at 08:42 hrs on Thursday, April 6th after spending three days at Sault Ste. Marie discharging steel products from Romania. For the second year in a row, the seasoned master received the traditional ‘top-hat’ for being the first ocean vessel to arrive in the port. Owned and operated by Fednav International, Canada’s largest ocean-going shipowning and chartering group, the ship loaded over 21,000 metric tonnes of canola bound for Rouen France.

At the ceremony held at the elevator under sunny skies the next day, Captain Fernandes said “It feels great to get the shipping season on the Great Lakes underway … it is quite the honour”. Patty Hajdu, Federal Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour, welcomed the Captain and Chief Engineer Nair at the top-hat ceremony. “We congratulate you and your crew on this wonderful achievement” Hajdu said. Representing the City of Thunder Bay, Councilor Ian Angus presented a scroll honouring the captain saying “we always look forward to this time of year… it is a sign spring is here”.

Harbour Master Guy Jarvis, also presented gifts on behalf of Port of Thunder Bay remarking that “We’re always optimistic at this time of year… I guess a couple of weeks ago I was talking about icebreakers, then you have a laker, and now the first salty… I know we’re in full swing now”. William Hryb, President of Thunder Bay Shipping Inc. agents for Fednav International said “this is certainly an auspicious and remarkable occasion … we wish you a bon voyage and speedy return to our great port”.

Earlier that day, at the annual Opening of Navigation luncheon, guest speaker Bruce Hodgson, Director of Market Development, The St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation, spoke of the important partnership that exists between the Seaway and the port of Thunder Bay. “The Great Lakes Seaway system is the gateway to and from the heartland of North America” Hodgson said.

Tim Heney, CEO of Thunder Bay Port Authority outlined last year’s achievements in front of a packed luncheon crowd of port users, Chamber of Commerce members and city dignitaries saying, “We had the strongest project and general cargo shipments at Keefer Terminal in 19 years, and expect shipments of structural steel and transformers to continue in 2017”.

The 2,000-mile Lake Superior inland port still relies on grain shipments that generate over 80 per cent of Thunder Bay’s cargo operations. With eight operating grain elevators, the port has a capacity to store well over 1.5 million tonnes of grain. Combined with that impressive statistic, Thunder Bay grain elevators can ship grain at over 2,500 metric tonnes per hour, making the port the prime grain transshipment region in North America. Vitality seems to be what the port has worked for and what it is now known for… a bright future, any way you look at it.