With crops set to come off the prairies in the coming months, Canadian ports are gearing up for a busy shipping season.

The Association of Canadian Port Authorities is holding its annual general meeting in Thunder Bay. Some of the hot topics at this year's event include how to grow ports and shipping in Canada, as well as discussing barriers to shipping on the Great Lakes.

Wendy Zatylny, the President of the Association, said there is lots of potential for growing the shipping industry in the Great Lakes. However, there are barriers as well. 

Wendy Zatylny

Wendy Zatylny is the President of the Association of Canadian Port Authorities. (womenofinfluence.ca)

"Part of it is simply the cost of actually transiting the cargo, bringing it along the length of the St. Lawrence and say all the way up to Thunder Bay and back out again," she said. "The pilotage fees, the lockage fees that [all] add up."

Zatylny said the profit margins for shipping bulk cargo, which is the vast majority of what moves through the Port of Thunder Bay, are very low.

She said operators need to pay attention to any cost, to ensure their business is profitable.

With that in mind, Zatylny said the outlook for shipping is positive.

"We are consistently looking across Canada, on average, at a steady three to five percent growth in port throughput."

"Overall, the trend is towards consistent, moderate growth. If you look at what Canada is doing with its trade agenda, the new trade agreements that are being negotiated, the potential for experts as well as population growth, we are very much forecasting a strong future for shipping."