Grain transport remains consistent
The Agriculture Transport Coalition (ATC) reported that CN and CP supplied a combined 95% of hopper cars ordered in grain week 39, consistent with last week’s performance, reflecting a decline in performance on CN offset by an increase in performance on CP. CN’s performance was above the 90% threshold for the fourth consecutive week, supplying 94% of cars ordered. CP’s performance increased marginally week over week, supplying 95% of cars ordered as compared to 93% in the prior week.
In a year over year comparison for week 39, Canadian elevators ordered 11,061 hopper cars which represents an ask for an additional 1,354 cars of grain to be moved, or approximately 13 additional trains. Demand for western movement to both Prince Rupert and Vancouver remains strong. Of the 10,022 rail cars supplied in week 39, 5,216 were directed to bulk shipments in Vancouver and 1,452 were directed to bulk shipments in Prince Rupert. Shipments of grain East to Thunder Bay represented 2,475 rail cars for week 39.
Country deliveries for week 39 were estimated at 962.7 thousand tonnes, slightly lower than delivery levels seen in previous weeks but still stronger than average for this time period. Continued warmer weather across the prairies will lead to reduced deliveries as seeding gets underway and road restrictions continue. Lower country deliveries and continued availability of empty rail hoppers have started to draw down country elevator stocks. For week 39, country elevator stocks are reported at 79% continuing a trend of returning to normal operating capacities.
Consistent delivery of grain by rail has resulted in grain stocks in port terminals increasing to 80% in week 39, compared to 78% last week. This capacity remains greater than average for this time of year.
Total Week 39 port unloads continued to perform above average for this time of year. The overall shortfall relative to last crop year has now been eliminated, with year?over?year unloads in a positive range, at 145,600 tonnes. This is largely because of the significant volume directed at Thunder Bay, which is presently 740,000 tonnes ahead of the same period last year. West coast port unload volumes continue to improve, but remain behind volumes moved last year. Year over year, Vancouver unloads are 239,490 tonnes behind and Prince Rupert is 492,258 tonnes behind.
West coast vessel lineups for week 40 now sits at 33 ships, compared to 36 ships last week. Since last week, waiting vessels lineup for Vancouver has decreased by 1 to 29 ships, while vessel lineups in Prince Rupert decreased by 2 to 4 ships. The week over week change in average time in port for ships in Vancouver has increased from 9.80 to 10 days, and increased in Prince Rupert from 7.00 days to 11.00 days.
Limited sailings of container ships continue to create access issues to empty containers and space on ships for containerized grain exports. For the year to date, the Port of Vancouver reports that 49 sailings have been cancelled due to the market disruptions from COVID-19.