Bad winters usually translate into good business for the Port of Windsor, and a big spike in 2017 sales of its No. 1 export — salt — is helping make this year one of its best ever.
“We’re having a terrific year so far — shipping is up about 20 per cent till the end of September,” said David Cree, president and CEO of the Windsor Port Authority.
Windsorites enjoyed a relatively mild 2016-17 winter, but many of the other K+S Windsor Salt Ltd. clients endured a harsher-than-usual season, resulting in higher-than-normal road salt demand. Cree said Port of Windsor salt exports as of Sept. 30 were up more than 30 per cent over the same period in 2016.
Gravel and other construction aggregates, the local port’s No. 2 shipped product, was up more than eight per cent; grain, in third spot, was up 28 per cent and “general cargo” — primarily steel — shot up 27 per cent, indicating a healthy economy with lots of construction.
This year’s shipping volumes will probably not match those of the 2015 record year, but Cree said the last five years have been “very good” and 2017 so far is ahead of projections.
Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Seaway cargo shipments as a whole are up 14 per cent over 2016 volumes as of the end of September, the St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation reported Tuesday. The total of 24.3 million metric tons in cargo shipped from March 20 to Sept. 30 represents a three million tonne jump from the same period in 2016.
Tuesday was Marine Day on the Hill, when the Chamber of Marine Commerce and shipping executives and their customers meet with Canadian federal government representatives. Despite the high cargo volumes carried by ships in the Great Lakes, Cree said there is still “lots of room to grow … without any additional infrastructure requirements.”
The Port of Windsor’s 13 terminals are, on average, under 60 per cent capacity, he said.
With “tremendous potential to grow,” Chamber of Marine Commerce president Bruce Burrows told officials that government needed to recognize “marine shipping’s significant environmental and economic benefits in its approach to transportation planning and policy-making.”
From the beginning of the 2017 shipping season to the end of September, about 70 freighters picked up 1.5 million tonnes of salt in Windsor, said Cree. During that period, 494 cargo ships stopped in the Port of Windsor (compared to 466 in 2016), loading or unloading about 3.8 million tonnes of cargo.
Weather, market demand and maintenance schedules usually mean Windsor sees its last freighter stops of the year by about mid-December, said Cree.
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