CN, Thunder Bay report strong cargo numbers

Canada’s largest railway company says it moved a record amount of western Canadian grain in October.

In a news release issued Nov. 5, Canadian National Railway said it moved 2.8 million tonnes of western Canadian grain and grain products, an all-time record for a single month.

CN’s previous monthly record, set in April 2019, was 2.7 million tonnes.

CN’s total grain movements through the first three months of the 2019-20 crop year (Aug. 1 to Oct. 31) now stand at 6.7 million tonnes, a good result considering that cold, wet harvest weather has delayed the pace of grain deliveries, leaving rail capacity significantly under-used, CN said.

“We are all part of the same supply chain, and as a railway CN fully understands the impacts that weather can have on the end-to-end supply chain,” said Allen Foster, vice-president of bulk at CN.

“Investment at every step of the supply chain – from producers and grain companies to CN’s investment in new hopper cars, increased network capacity, and a more modern locomotive fleet — all played a role in delivering a record month.”

The Port of Thunder Bay in Ontario also announced steady export volumes through grain export terminals on the north shore of Lake Superior.

In a Nov. 6 news release, the port authority said grain volumes held steady in October, maintaining a seasonal increase over last year.

Port officials cited an increase in canola shipments to international ports.

“At just under half a million metric tonnes, direct exports of (Canadian) canola from Thunder Bay by foreign-flagged saltie vessels are at an all-time high,” the port authority said.

The bulk of the canola exported through Thunder Bay is grown in Manitoba.

The first week of November has remained busy, particularly for ocean vessels departing the port with grain, the port authority added.

“Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada has been projecting a strong fall harvest, however there is some uncertainty for the final two months of the shipping season as poor weather has led to harvesting delays and some crop downgrading on the Prairies,” is said.

Overall, the Port of Thunder Bay is reporting above-average cargo tonnage as of Oct. 31. Port terminals have handled 6.9 million tonnes of cargo so far this season — about 10 percent higher than last year and five percent higher than the port’s five-year average.

Coal and potash movements were particularly strong.

Coal and potash shipments for the month of October were twice and three times the normal levels, respectively, the port authority said.

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