Officials with the port authority in Thunder Bay, Ont., say they are expecting a strong finish to the shipping season as they expect to ship a level of cargo only achieved three times in the last 20 years.

According to a written statement issued on Wednesday, prior to Oct. 31 this year, the port has handled 6.7 million tonnes of cargo and are on track to ship an estimated total of nine million metric tonnes by the end of this season. That's despite grain shipments during October being down slightly from Oct., 2016.

"October [was] a little bit softer than last year in grain, but year-to-date, we're still slightly ahead of last year," Port Authority CEO Tim Heney said. "We're seeing a lot better quality crop coming through the port this year."

General cargo shipments, along with grain, are expected to increase in November, the port said. 

Some of the project cargo that shipped through Thunder Bay in October was steel piping for oil bound for Alberta by train Heney said, adding that it's the first of such cargo "in probably 25 years."

"That coming through is something we've been after for a long time and I think it could be a repeat cargo ... sort of a diversification of steel shipments, really."

The port says the pipe is a spin-off of a growing volume of steel products being imported to the Prairies through the Thunder Bay port since 2014.

Still, Heney said, grain is expected to drive the strong end-of-season projections.

"There's more in storage right now in the elevators than there was last year," he said, adding that number is around 45 per cent higher.

To date, the port is about 11 percent ahead of its five-year average for cargo moved, according to Wednesday's statement.