First Port of Churchill shipment to set sail

WINNNIPEG — Manitoba’s Port of Churchill is almost ready to start moving grain this season, the port’s operator says.

Ships were expected to go out by the end of the month.

“The elevator is starting to fill up and the rail cars are lining up for delivery on time. We’ve got ships predicted to start,” said Merv Tweed, president of OmniTrax Canada, the railway company which operates the port.

“We’ll be full steam ahead with as many weeks as we can get in.”

The Hudson Bay port is budgeting for a 500,000 tonne grain season, and Tweed said the company is three-quarters of the way there with commitments.

Last year, the port handled 540,000 tonnes of grain.

This year’s heat has posed issues, causing the company to cumulatively lose about three days of work to avoid damaging the rail’s track bed.

“We have to make certain decisions to delay until the evening when it’s cooler, where repairs are absolutely necessary. It has been a challenge,” Tweed said.

Rail movement to the port started about two weeks later than normal this year to lower the cost of maintenance on the track, but Tweed said the change has had little impact.

In the past, the port relied on the Canadian Wheat Board, which has since been sold and renamed G3 Canada Ltd.

“Obviously, with their own infrastructure they’re trying to utilize their equipment the same way we are, and we expected that,” he said. “We’ve built that into our business plan.”

Churchill is North America’s only deep water Arctic seaport and is expected to run until early November, depending on weather.

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