Transportation network continues to operate healthily
The Agriculture Transport Coalition (ATC) reported that railways supplied 93% of hopper cars ordered by Canadian grain elevators in week 36, an increase over the 84% supplied last week. Order fulfillment in Alberta increased week over week, with CP remaining unchanged in week 36 at 98%, and CN increasing to 86% in week 36 from 83% in the previous week.
Continued strong movement is important this year, as compounding delays have resulted in a backlog of grain movement.
In a year over year comparison for week 36, Canadian elevators ordered an additional 1,123 cars of grain to be moved, which represents an ask for an additional 11 trains.
Of the 9,050 rail cars supplied in week 36: 4,369 were directed to bulk shipments in Vancouver and 1,331 were directed to bulk shipments in Prince Rupert.
High demand for western movement to both Prince Rupert and Vancouver is expected to continue through the spring months. Shipments of grain East to Thunder Bay represented 2,682 rail cars for week 36.
Last week the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) announced the temporary reduction of hours at low-traffic ports of entry along the Canada-United States border. This is in response to lower volumes of traffic which has occurred due to the ongoing prohibition of non-essential traffic between the two countries.
At this point, there have been no concerns raised by industry about the staffing reductions inhibiting the flow of essential commercial trade.
Despite seasonal road closures being reported in areas of the country, no reports have been received of undue or unexpected delays.
Grain deliveries by truck appear to be continuing above average as country elevator stocks remain high. AAFC reports that elevator grain stocks were at 85% in week 36.
Elevator stocks remain higher than average, which is expected given the delays in grain transport experienced this year.
Country grain stocks are expected to begin a regular seasonal drop over the next few weeks as farmer attention turns from delivering grain to seeding of the 2020 crop.
Consistent delivery of grain by rail and truck has resulted in grain stocks in port terminals increasing despite another good week of vessel clearance. Port terminals are at 76% full in week 36, greater than week 35 and an amount which is near average for this time of year.
Port unloads for bulk shipments, which have remained above average for the past several weeks, lagged in week 36 down to amounts in line with the 3-year average. West coast vessel lineups for week 37 now sit at an average level of 29 ships.
Since last week, waiting vessels lineup for Vancouver has reduced by 3 to 24 ships, while vessel lineups in Prince Rupert have decreased by 1 to 5 ships. The average time in port for ships in both Vancouver and Prince Rupert is now 11.8 days, down from a high of 14.05 days and 14.20 days respectively. Year over year, port unloads remain behind for week 36: 447,807 thousand tonnes behind for Vancouver and 484,783 thousand tonnes behind for Prince Rupert.
Containerized grain shipments remain under pressure due to a growing number of cancelled sailings of container ships. For the year to date, the Port of Vancouver reports that 46 sailings have been cancelled due to the market disruptions from COVID-19. This continues to limit access to empty containers and increases the demand for space on the container ships that remain.