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Grain and potash shipments reach highest numbers in two years

By Chloe Hannan Jun 7, 2024 | 4:00 PM

A strong start to the shipping season in Thunder Bay continued throughout May.

Grain shipments were just short of 930,000 metric tons and potash shipments reached 260,000 metric tons.

Both the highest monthly numbers achieved in two years.

58 vessels came into the port, surpassing last season’s high of 56 ships recorded in December.

The CEO of the Port of Thunder Bay, Chris Heikkinen, says this past month was an exceptional one.

“Year to date, this has been our best start in over 30 years,” said Heikkinen. “Three or four years back, it would’ve taken us until September or October to ship that many tons of potash all season.”

Potash volumes have been increasing over the past several years.

“It started with the conflict in the Ukraine with Russia’s invasion,” said Heikkinen. “That area is a significant producer of potash, and it’s second to Canada. That created havoc in the potash supply, so we saw an increase in shipments.”

As for grain, last year’s harvest is being sent out right now.

“Grain shipments are usually about timing, and there’s a lot of factors that play into why the numbers are high,” said Heikkinen. “Grain travelling through Thunder Bay goes primarily to Europe, North America, the Middle East and Latin America, so if the grain is being pulled that way, then we’ll see more shipments in Thunder Bay.”

He also points out that there’s been supply chain issues across north America, so Thunder Bay is continuing to being used more and more. Ships are diversifying their shipping routes because of this.

Other cargo movements in May included the arrival of steel pipes at Keefer Terminal and a shipment of petroleum, the second liquid bulk import of the season. Liquid bulk imports were absent last season, so this signifies a positive shift in the Port’s cargo diversity.