CP to chart weekly grain handling performance online

Canadian Pacific Railway plans to launch a new weekly “supply chain scorecard” next week, to chart its own performance handling Prairie grain.

The Calgary company announced the new program Friday for an online launch Wednesday (Oct. 19), noting the scorecard “will include, when necessary, detailed information on any internal or external factors affecting grain movement” as well as an outline of CP’s grain-handling performance each week.

The railway said the data in the scorecard will run over and above what it’s already required to share with Transport Canada, and “consistent with data provided post 2013-14 crop-year and the minimum mandate.”

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That’s a reference to mandatory minimum grain traffic quotas imposed in 2014 on Canada’s big two railways, following a major grain glut on the Prairies. The federal government allowed the quotas to expire last year.

CP said it has been “working in close collaboration with Canadian government officials” on the scorecard system. Ottawa already supports the weekly performance measurements released by the Ag Transport Coalition, made up of producer and grain industry stakeholder groups.

Noting forecasts for a record or near-record crop this year, CP said that while it made “early preparations” to move the 2015-16 crop, it has so far moved “less Canadian grain than in 2014-15 and less than the three-year average” due to delays in the fall harvest.

In each of the last three full crop years, CP said, it has moved “record volumes” of grain.

“Our supply chain is built to deliver grain throughout the year and depends on all the various pieces working together collaboratively,” CP CEO Hunter Harrison said, announcing the new scorecard system.

“Our new supply chain scorecard will help tell that story while holding us and the rest of the supply chain accountable.”

Harrison on Friday also wrote to the federal agriculture and transport ministers, with copies circulated to their counterparts in the three Prairie provinces, outlining the company’s concerns for the upcoming peak grain shipping season.

“If forecasts for historically large volumes of grain for this autumn are correct, then all of us will benefit if the Canadian grain supply chain moves as much as possible over the coming months to reduce carry-in into the next crop year, thereby lowering the total volume to move during the peak,” he wrote.

“Sitting parked”

“The grain supply chain in Canada, like all efficient supply chains, is not built to move total annual volumes of a commodity in a short, peak period of time and then sit idle for the rest of the year.”

The company, he wrote, now has “thousands of covered hopper cars and hundreds of locomotives sitting parked. This is unused, idle capacity in the system. It would be unfortunate if a significant amount of supply chain capacity is lost due to customers wanting to wait for a specific price to sell their grain, as we experienced in the summer and early fall of 2013.”

Furthermore, he wrote, “in order for the system to move record volumes of grain, it is essential that port terminals such as Vancouver remain fluid, and that the (St. Lawrence) Seaway — especially the Port of Thunder Bay — stays open as long as possible.”

Thunder Bay’s closure from late December to March/April each year “significantly reduces grain supply chain capacity. Utilizing other outlets like Thunder Bay takes pressure off Vancouver,” he wrote.

“Like all terminal complexes, Vancouver has finite capacity; trying to push more grain than can be accommodated causes congestion that ripples through the entire system.” — AGCanada.com Network

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