Canada's St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corp. (SLSMC) said the waterway saw a surge in ships carrying grain in December, but volumes were lower on the waterway in 2013 than in 2012.
"A relatively late harvest in the Prairies producing record breaking
volumes led to a delay in the movement of grain. Once the grain began to
move, the seaway played a key role in enabling farmers to move their
crops to market, contributing to a surge in seaway cargo during the
month of December. Despite the cold snap enveloping much of North
America, a total of 4.4 million tons of cargo moved through the seaway
in December, exceeding last year’s December volume by 130,000 tons,
and eclipsing the five-year December average by some 20 percent," SLSMC said.
However for the entire year which began on March 22, 2013, seaway tonnage was 37 million tons, 5.3 percent lower than the
volumes experienced in 2012. Despite the late season surge in grain,
overall grain tonnage was down 3.2 percent in 2013 as much of the record crop
was quite late. However, the high volumes of grain currently going into
storage and the pent up demand for grain movements bodes well for the
start of the seaway’s 2014 navigation season, the agency said.
The seaway closed on Jan. 1 with the eastbound vessel Orsula
transiting the St. Lambert Lock in Montreal at 1:29 p.m. The last vessel to exit the Welland Canal was the CSL Laurentian
, which transited Lock 8 at 3:38 p.m. the same day. Consequently, both sections of the seaway were open for 286 days, given an opening date of March 22.
“The record-breaking crop proved to be both a bounty for farmers and a logistical challenge for the grain handling industry” said Terence Bowles, SLSMC president and chief executive officer, in a statement. “Once again, marine carriers moving grain through the seaway proved to be an invaluable part of the transportation network, enabling farmers to reach markets that they may otherwise not have been able to profit from. While we had planned to close the season on Dec. 30, the unusually cold weather brought about transit delays, necessitating an additional two days of operation. We are particularly proud of our employees who worked tirelessly during late December’s frigid conditions, to enable vessels to finish their transits.”
SLSMC said a bright spot in the seaway’s cargo mix was a 12 percent increase in liquid bulk, as double-hulled tankers moved volumes of petroleum distillates between distribution locations to smooth out inventory levels and ensure adequate supplies in key markets. In other sectors, iron ore was down 4 percent, reflecting the challenging climate within the North American steel industry. Reduced imports of steel products contributed to a 20 percent decline in breakbulk cargo. Movements of dry bulk were down 12 percent as reduced construction activity in infrastructure projects lowered the demand for cargoes such as cement and aggregates.
An influx of new vessels, purpose-built for seaway use, continued during the 2013 navigation season, SLSMC said. It noted the new ships are more fuel efficient and have lower emissions. In 2010, Canada waived a 25 percent tariff on imports of all general cargo vessels and tankers, as well as ferries greater than 129 meters in length.