Canada Markets

Costs Mount as Grain Shipping Slowly Recovers

Cliff Jamieson
By  Cliff Jamieson , Canadian Grains Analyst
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The AG Transport Coalition reports solid unloads on the West Coast in recent days as railways scramble to recover, although the downside is seen in loads on wheels which fell 6% from March 3 to March 4. (DTN graphic by Cliff Jamieson)

Canada's rail blockades may have ended, but the monumental task of catching up continues. The week 30 vessel lineup was reported at 51 vessels for the Port of Vancouver and the Port of Prince Rupert as reported by Quorum Corporation this week. While this is down by two from the previous week, the first week-over-week drop in four weeks, this still represents capacity for close to 2.5 million metric tons as the industry struggles to put grain into position for loading.

A Bloomberg piece carried by Postmedia in Canada has Wade Sobkowich of the Western Grain Elevator Association indicating that it may take until October to catch up from the disruptions faced in February. A combination of contract penalties and demurrage continue to cost the industry as much as $10 million per day, while companies are forced to reign in new sales and attempt to catch up on old ones.

As seen on the attached chart, hopper car unloads at Canada's western ports totaled 1,155 on March 4, down slightly from the 1,214 cars unloaded on March 3 but well-above the 318 cars unloaded on Feb. 2. The Daily Pipeline Status from the AG Transport Coalition reports that three days into week 31, unloads at Canada's western ports (Vancouver, Prince Rupert and Thunder Bay) are 750 unloads ahead of the pace set in the previous week.

While this is positive news given the waiting vessels, the elevated number of unloads can lead to less favorable data across the rest of the pipeline. For example, the number of cars reported on site at Vancouver and Prince Rupert has fallen by 400 cars to 1,000 cars, which seems to be the lowest number reported since Feb. 13. In addition, the number of loads on wheels fell to 11,036 cars, the lowest in four days which is 2% below the 30-day moving average. The coalition reports that the pace of unloads is exceeding the rate of newly loaded cars pushed into the pipeline.

While there has been warning, CN Rail is reported to have cancelled 700 cars so far in week 30, while this number may continue to grow when reporting is finalized. This final number will be added to the 16,887 cars cancelled (CN only) though the first 29 weeks of the crop year, in addition to the 95 cars cancelled by CP Rail.

These cancellations represent rightly 1.6 million metric tons of shipping.


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