Churchill is nearing the end of a busy grain shipping season, with the tonnage moving through the northern port expected to come in well above the previous year.
“We’ll be wrapping up in the next 10 to 12 days,” Darcy Brede, president and chief operating officer of OmniTRAX, said last week.
More than 500,000 tonnes of grain and oilseeds had moved through the port as of the end of October, and the final tally should exceed 600,000 tonnes, said Brede. That compares to 460,000 tonnes last year and the five-year average of about 550,000. October’s shipments of 270,000 tonnes would likely set a monthly record, he added.
Wheat accounted for most of the grain loaded during the season, with some durum and canola also moving, said Brede.
Following the demise the Canadian Wheat Board’s single desk in 2012, Ottawa set up the $25-million, five-year Churchill Port Utilization Program to encourage shipments. Five companies used the port this year, and while the CWB is still a major customer, Richardson International was the biggest shipper this year, said Brede.
“The logistics are a little more intense because there are more customers,” said Brede. “But when it comes to operations, we love problems like that.”
Aside from grain movement, the shipping season also included three vessels loaded with re-supply shipments for the northern territory of Nunavut, said Brede.
Potential exports of crude oil are still being investigated, he said, and many potential customers have expressed interest as the port has good access to the European market, said Brede. Stakeholder meetings are currently taking place, and a test shipment will likely take place in 2014. A test run originally set for this fall was postponed in order to allow for further consultations.