The traditional top hat ceremony honouring the boat that opens shipping in Thunder Bay took place Tuesday afternoon.

The captain and chief engineer of the laker the John B. Aird were honoured by port officials at a reception.

The boat, owned by Algoma Central Corporation, has docked at the Viterra elevator to pick up 24,000 metric tons of grain.

Two other ships were due to arrive Tuesday as well — the Algoma Montrealais and the Ojibway.

Harbour Master Guy Jarvis said the Thunder Bay Port Authority has high hopes for a reasonably busy year as the St. Lawrence Seaway Authority predicts growth in traffic through the seaway system.

Jarvis said increased grain shipments that started in Thunder Bay last fall should continue,  partly due to the end to the monopoly of the Canadian Wheat Board.

"It could be that the grain companies are more actively involved in the supply of ships and expanding into more global markets," he said.

Jarvis noted there are other factors that could benefit Thunder Bay, including the introduction of new lake vessels.