Cargo volumes through the St. Lawrence Seaway and Canadian Great Lakes ports remained steady in September, with year-to-date overall cargo volumes to the end of September totalling 24.2 million metric tonnes, up 2.6 per cent from the same time period in 2020.
Year-to-date iron ore shipments, up 26 per cent, showed no sign of slowing down as demand from Canadian and overseas steel producers continued. On the other hand, the Seaway’s largest single category, grains, suffered a YTD decline of 1.6 million tonnes, or 22.2 per cent. Poor weather conditions have led to lower crop yields in the Canadian Prairies, resulting in lower levels of shipments. On the other hand, Ontario corn and soybean harvests have begun and are in good condition.
General cargo shipments, including iron, steel and aluminum, are also up 59 per cent compared to this time last year. Ship operator McKeil Marine delivered over 41,600 metric tonnes of Canadian aluminum in September; up from 16,200 metric tonnes in September 2020. The majority of these volumes are being shipped to Toledo, Ohio. The improvement comes after U.S. steel tariffs were lifted in 2019/2020, although volumes have not yet completely returned to normal levels. McKeil’s aluminum shipping utilization is currently at 85-90 per cent.
Hamilton-Oshawa Port Authority’s President & CEO, Ian Hamilton, commented that ”In particular we’re pleased to see strong manufacturing-related indicators like steel-making commodities and finished steel. Compared to this time last year, HOPA Ports has received 25 per cent more iron ore (two million tonnes) and more than a million tonnes of steel has moved through the ports so far this season. This is an encouraging sign of demand in the manufacturing and construction sectors.”
Picton Terminals has also seen a large amount of construction materials of late. Through September, nearly 99,000 metric tonnes of stone has been shipped out, while receiving 25,000 metric tonnes of gypsum, and 23,302 cubic yards of dredged sand. New this year, the port has picked up approximately 7,000 metric tonnes of steel beams by barge.
Further west, Port Windsor’s aggregate shipments are up 14%, and steel, up 100,000 tonnes, continue to lead economic recovery. Ferry traffic for oversized and dangerous goods has seen 33% more crossings and a 76% increase in tonnage.
Port of Thunder Bay continues to feel the impact on grain shipments, as the Prairie harvest yield hit a 10-year low and year-to-date grain shipments in Thunder Bay are 5 per cent below the five-year average. In September, monthly grain loads were down 30 per cent. However, potash shipments in September were strong. Canadian potash producers earlier this year signaled strong production for the second half of 2021. Canada is the largest potash producer in the world. Thunder Bay is on track to set a 4-year high for potash shipments in 2021, with most shipments heading to Belgium.
Thunder Bay also received a 220-tonne gas turbine generator at Keefer Terminal in September. The first in a series of heavy lifts and breakbulk cargo scheduled at Keefer Terminal this fall, the shipment components will be further transported to Western Canada by truck and rail.