Late start to Port of Churchill shipping season

WINNIPEG — The Port of Churchill in northern Manitoba will start its shipping season later this year as the owner hopes to lower the cost of maintenance on the railway track.

OmniTrax president Merv Tweed said he expects the first ship will go out sometime in late July.

The port normally starts operations on July 15 and runs for 14 weeks until Oct.31.

OmniTrax is the private railway company in charge of the port.

“We’ve made a plan this year to start later, which helps lower the cost of maintenance on the track during June, which is usually the worst month of frost coming out of the ground,” Tweed said.

“By starting a little bit later, we think we can certainly reduce the overhead and the cost of that.”

However, Tweed said the company is still budgeting for a 500,000 tonne season, a bit less than last year’s shipments of 540,000 tonnes, but a number that Tweed said is an average of what they’ve moved in recent years.

Last year’s late harvest in northern Saskatchewan and Manitoba also affected this year’s season, Tweed said.

“Grain is not moving in the numbers it has in the past simply because the volumes aren’t there. I think people are waiting for a better price in the fall,” he said.

The port traditionally ships wheat and canola, and in the past relied on the Canadian Wheat Board. However, the port is diversifying its suppliers and Tweed said OmniTrax has not dealt with CWB in a year.

Employees are now at the port doing maintenance.

“Our season will open. People that are at the port right now are doing the upgrades that are necessary for the season,” he said.

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