Viterra eyes Montreal grain terminal

Viterra is in talks with the Montreal Port Authority to become the operator of the St. Lawrence Seaway port’s grain terminal.

The Regina firm, Canada’s largest grain handler, emphasized in a release Wednesday that “no transaction has been finalized” with the port authority and discussions are ongoing.

Viterra’s proposal calls for it to lease the terminal from the port authority and to operate the terminal and transfer elevator, which has total storage capacity of 262,000 tonnes.

While all other marine grain terminals in Canada are privately operated, the Montreal terminal has never had an outside operator in the past, according to port authority communications director Jean-Paul Lejeune.

The port authority formally made the grain terminal available for lease by public tender in September 2010.

The goal, Lejeune said, is to have “the same pattern of operations for our grain terminal as for our others types of terminals,” which are operated by specialized companies.

Viterra noted the facility’s location in “the deepest inland seaport in North America,” offering direct shipping routes to various ports in Canada, the U.S. and Europe, as well as its connections to both Canadian National (CN) and Canadian Pacific (CP) rail lines.

The terminal, which operates year-round, currently handles crops such as wheat, corn, barley, soybeans, peas and lentils, and includes a 400-tonne-per-hour rotary-screen grain sifter.

The terminal’s unloading berth, with a sidewater depth of 10.7 metres, can move 3,000 tonnes of grain per hour; the loading berth, which includes an automated loading gallery with three booms and has a sidewater depth of 8.23 metres, can handle 5,500 tonnes per hour.

During its 2009 season, the facility handled combined inbound and outbound cargo of 1.687 million tonnes of grain via maritime vessels and 730,805 tonnes via rail and truck, compared to 1.471 million tonnes via ships and 845,208 tonnes via rail and truck during 2008.

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