In both western and eastern Canada, breakbulk activity is on the rise – as seen in strong shipments of steel, forest products and construction materials as well as wind energy components. The overall project cargo sector is re-bounding from production delays and other pandemic-related challenges.

At the Port of Vancouver, Canada’s largest port and leading Pacific gateway, the breakbulk numbers are showing significant growth with first half 2021 volume up by 36% at 10 million metric tons. Breakbulk activity is brisk at two dedicated terminals: DP World Fraser Surrey and Lynnterm operated by Western Stevedoring.

As an indicator, in the period to end June, forest products throughput increased by over 15% to 12 million tons. Machinery, industrial parts and construction materials were on growth trajectories exceeding 10%.

Commenting on present project cargo and breakbulk shipping trends on the St. Lawrence Seaway, Bruce Hodgson, Director of Market development, told AJOT: “In 2021, shipments to the steel industry have increased, buoyed by the economic recovery following COVID-19. Imports of steel and slab have increased by over 80% from what was handled in the previous year.”

Cargo volumes through the St. Lawrence Seaway and Canadian Great Lakes ports remained robust in September as ships delivered critical commodities and products without the delays or supply chain disruption seen in other trade gateways, according to the latest results. From March 22 to September 30, overall cargo volumes via the Seaway totaled 24.1 million tons, up 2.6% from the same period in 2020. The total was boosted by increases in cross-border trade of cargoes like stone (55%), cement (7%) and gypsum (18%) for construction purposes. Year-to-date iron ore shipments, up 26%, showed no sign of slowing down as demand from Canadian and overseas steel producers continued. General cargo shipments, including iron, steel and aluminum, are also up 59% at 2.3 million tons compared to this time last year. Ship operator McKeil Marine delivered over 41,600 tons of Canadian aluminum in September - markedly up from 16,200 metric tons in September 2020. The majority of these volumes are being shipped to Toledo, Ohio. The improvement comes after U.S. steel tariffs were lifted in 2019/2020, although volumes have not yet completely returned to normal levels.

“What we’re seeing in cargo at our ports makes us optimistic for the path the regional economy is on,” says Ian Hamilton, president and CEO of the Hamilton-Oshawa Port Authority. “In particular we’re pleased to see strong manufacturing-related indicators like steel-making commodities and finished steel. Compared to this time last year, HOPA Ports has received 25% more iron ore (two million tons) and more than a million tonnes of steel has moved through the ports so far this season. This is an encouraging sign of demand in the manufacturing and construction sectors.”

“Keep your eyes open for an upcoming movement of pre-fabricated jail cells which will be moving to both Kelowna, B.C., and Thunder Bay, Ontario,” Hodgson said.

On the tip of Lake Superior, the Port of Thunder Bay has handled its largest…

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