Longer seaway season would be beneficial to Thunder Bay port, says shipping company CEO
Locks at Sault Ste. Marie have scheduled opening date, but not further downstream
The company opening up the Port of Thunder Bay for two years in a row, says the Great Lakes shipping industry would benefit from the St. Lawrence Seaway following the schedule of the locks at Sault Ste. Marie.
Scott Bravener, the CEO of McKeil Marine Limited, said an additional two weeks of being able to move cargo through the Welland Canal and St. Lawrence Seaway would bring a boost to cargo volumes, and also make it easier for prairie crops to be shipped after the fall harvest.
"It could increase the tonnage through the Port of Thunder Bay up to close a half a million tonnes in a year," Bravener said. "It would basically extend the season by two weeks. It would also benefit the agricultural sector."
Bravener said he brought up the topic for the first time in a virtual address during the opening of the shipping season in 2021.
In an interview with CBC News, he said there is a pilot project underway to improve icebreaking, which would extend the season.
"In combination with government efforts to reinvest in icebreaking resources with the Canadian Coast Guard, it's proven the Port of Thunder Bay does operate as close to Jan. 15 of each year for shipping, and to domestic, for commodities that are being shipped above the Welland Canal, it's proven that it can work," Bravener said.
The locks at Sault Ste. Marie are operated from March 25 to Jan. 15 annually. While the shipping season for access westward to Thunder Bay is determined by the operations in the Sault, Bravener said more cargo would move, if it could go through the Welland Canal.
"The Port of Thunder Bay represents almost 20 per cent of the total tonnage that moves through St. Lawrence Seaway in any given year. It could provide particular value to the port to allow that additional volume to flow out during that time of the year."