Canada Markets

A Look at Recent Shipping Statistics

Cliff Jamieson
By  Cliff Jamieson , Canadian Grains Analyst
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Canada's two major railways have cancelled or rationed 4,570 hopper cars over the first 11 weeks of the crop year (blue line), almost entirely CN cars, well-above the number reported for each of the past two years (brown line and black line). (DTN graphic by Cliff Jamieson)

The AG Transport Coalition's week 11 Weekly Performance Update, which includes statistics that covers 90% of Western Canada grain movement, shows hopper car demand as of week 11 at 111,067 hopper cars, up 31% from the same period in 2019-20 and 24% higher than the five-year average.

When the year-over-year change by marketing channel is considered, we see that the largest year-over-year growth in demand is seen off the West Coast, with the year-over-year demand growing by 17,924 hopper cars (Vancouver Bulk plus Prince Rupert) or by 33.2%. Demand for Thunder Bay cars has grown by 7,092 cars or 39.6%, movement to the USA/Mexico has increased by 616 cars of 19.7% while movement to Eastern Canada has grown by 566 cars of 17.1%. The smallest year-over-year change is a 78-car or 3.3% increase in Vancouver Other/Western Canada movement.

When the performance of the two railroads is combined, we see that 93.4% of all cars ordered to date have been spotted. This ranges from 85.5% of the demand met for the Vancouver Other/Western Canada channel to 97% of the USA/Mexico demand. The largest movement to the west shows 92.9% of the Vancouver Bulk demand met, along with 91.9% of the Prince Rupert demand.

Unfilled demand as of week 11 is reported at 7,329 cars, up from 1,245 cars over the same period in 2019-20 and 3,317 cars over the same period in 2018-19. Of this number, 17.9% remain as outstanding orders, 9.4% is rejected cars, 10.4% is classed as shortened supply, while the largest category of unfilled demand is seen in the 4,570 cars that has been rationed or cancelled as of week 11. A further breakdown shows 4,517 cars cancelled by CN Rail, or 98.8% of the total.

As seen on the attached chart, the number of cars cancelled is up from zero over the same period in 2019-20 and 757 cars in the same period of 2018-19. At 90 metric tons/car, this represents lost shipping of roughly 660,000 mt.

Despite the lost shipping opportunity, CN Rail's weekly Update on Western Canadian Grain for week 11 indicates the 6.7 million metric tons moved this crop year is 22% higher than last year and 23% higher than the three-year average.

CN data shows the total number of customer orders for week 11 at 6,382 cars is 582 cars in excess of the 5,800 Maximum Sustainable Supply Chain Capacity of 5,800 cars. This trend can be expected to continue, with week 12 orders reported at 182 cars in excess of supply chain capacity and week 13 reported at 1,102 cars above capacity.


DTN 360 Poll

This week's poll asks which crop you think has the most bullish potential in the 2020-21 crop year? You can weigh in with your ideas on this poll located on the lower-right side of your DTN Canada Home Page.

Cliff Jamieson can be reached at

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