The Port of Thunder Bay opened with a solid week of shipping to start the 2017 navigation season, with March volumes above the ten-year-average.

Port Authority CEO Tim Heney said the first ships have been lakers, and the majority of cargo shipped was grain from last year's strong prairie harvest.

"It was a big harvest and there is quite a bit of carry over, so that carries you through the first half of the season," Heney said. "Then you have to see what happen with this year's harvest."

"But the last 4 years have been the biggest in history."

Other shipments included outbound coal and an inbound load of road salt to replenish the stock for local use, the authority said in a release.

The authority also anticipates steady cargo shipments through April, as significant grain stocks remain in port and in prairie elevators.

Heney said it's always good to have a good start to the season.

"​I think there are a lot of things lining up in a positive way, so I'm quite optimistic," he said. "It's always easy to be that way this time of year."

Heney said the first ocean vessel should arrive Thursday, and will be taking on a load grain. 

Keefer Terminal, the port's general cargo hub, anticipates its first marine shipment, a load of electrical transformers, in mid-April. 

On March 24, officials from Port Authority presented this year's top hat to Captain John Carlson of the Manitoulin, who was the first ship through port as he made an early start to the Thunder Bay shipping season.