CNS Canada — Manitoba’s northern Port of Churchill will start its shipping season later this year, as its operator hopes to lower the cost of maintenance on the railway serving the port.
Merv Tweed, president of port and railway operator OmniTrax Canada, said the company expects the first grain vessel will go out sometime in late July.
The Hudson Bay port normally starts operations on July 15, and runs for 14 weeks until around the end of October.
“We’ve made a plan this year to start later, which helps lower the cost of maintenance on the track during June, which is usually the worst month of frost coming out of the ground,” Tweed said.
“By starting a little bit later we think we can certainly reduce the overhead and the cost of that.”
However, Tweed said, they’re still budgeting for a 500,000-tonne grain handling season — lower than last year’s shipments of 540,000, but about an average of what they’ve moved in recent years.
Last year’s late harvest in northern Saskatchewan and Manitoba also had an impact this year’s season, he said.
“Grain is not moving the numbers it has in the past, simply because the volumes aren’t there. I think people are waiting for a better price in the fall.”
The port traditionally ships wheat and canola, and in the past relied on the Canadian Wheat Board (now CWB) as its main customer. However, the company started diversifying, and now Tweed said they haven’t dealt with CWB in a year.
Employees are now at work preparing the port, he said. “Our season will open. People that are at the port right now are doing the upgrades that are necessary for the season.”
— Jade Markus writes for Commodity News Service Canada, a Winnipeg company specializing in grain and commodity market reporting.