By Brian Cross
A recent expansion of terminal storage capacity at Thunder Bay is expected help to boost annual grain export volumes though the Great Lakes.
Richardson International more than doubled its capacity at Thunder Bay last year when it re-opened the Current River terminal, which had been mothballed for three years.
Richardson took ownership of the facility in May 2013 as part of as deal to acquire selected Viterra assets.
Cleaning and restoration work began last June and the first rail cars were received in October.
The Current River terminal has storage capacity of 235,000 tonnes.
It will handle mainly canola, oats and wheat.
“It was a team effort on the part of our terminal management and all employees to take a mothballed facility and breathe new life into it to enhance our operations in Thunder Bay,” says Darwin Sobkow, executive vice-president of agribusiness operations and processing.
“Current River is an excellent complement to our (other Thunder Bay) facility and will allow us to increase receiving and shipping efficiencies and capitalize on our ability to handle grains and oilseeds through the Eastern Canadian corridor.”
Richardson’s other Thunder Bay terminal, which opened in 1919, has 208,000 tonnes of storage.
With Current River now in operation, Richardson’s total storage capacity at the port is almost 450,000 tonnes.
Officials with the Port of Thunder Bay anticipate a strong shipping season this year.
Tim Heney, chief executive officer with the port authority, said grain exports are likely to exceed seven million tonnes in 2014, an increase of at least 27 percent over the 5.5 million tonnes shipped during the 2013 shipping season.
“It’s hard to forecast, but some people say it will be seven million tonnes, some say eight,” Heney said.
‘We can easily do that much but … its been a while since we’ve done that. It’s hard for me to reach out that far but I’d say a minimum of seven.”
The port hasn’t handled seven million tonnes of grain in a single season for more than a decade, he added.
Sobkow said Richardson has just begun to operate the Current River terminal and will look for ways to enhance operations in the future.
This year, the Current River terminal received both the first laker and the first salt water ship of the 2014 Thunder Bay shipping season.
The terminal loaded its first vessel of the season on April 22, about a month later than usual.
Extreme winter weather this winter resulted in a delayed thaw of lake ice and a later-than-normal start to the 2014 shipping season.