Ships’ sailing season starts soon at Churchill

CNS Canada –– Manitoba’s Port of Churchill is almost ready to start moving grain this season, as ships are expected to go out within the next 10 days, the port’s operator said.

“The elevator is starting to fill up and the rail cars are lining up for delivery on time. We’ve got ships predicted to start,” said Merv Tweed, president of OmniTrax Canada, the railway company that operates the port.

“We’ll be full steam ahead with as many weeks as we can get in.”

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The Hudson Bay port is budgeting for a 500,000-tonne grain season, and Tweed said it’s three-quarters of the way there with commitments.

Last year the port handled 540,000 tonnes of grain.

Heat has posed some issues, causing the company to cumulatively lose two-and-a-half to three days of work to avoid damaging the rail’s track bed.

“We have to make certain decisions to delay until the evening when it’s cooler, where repairs are absolutely necessary,” Tweed said. “It has been a challenge.”

Rail movement to Churchill this year started about two weeks later than normal to reduce the cost of maintenance on the track, but Tweed said the change hasn’t has much of an impact.

In the past, the port relied on the Canadian Wheat Board, which has since been privatized and renamed G3 Canada Ltd.

“Obviously with their own infrastructure they’re trying to utilize their equipment the same way we are, and we expected that; we’ve built that into our business plan.”

The Port of Churchill is North America’s only deep-water Arctic seaport. Its shipping season is expected to run until early November or until the bay’s ice is too thick for ships.

Jade Markus writes for Commodity News Service Canada, a Winnipeg company specializing in grain and commodity market reporting. Follow CNS Canada at @CNSCanada on Twitter.

 

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