November 26, 2008
The Canadian Wheat Board, or CWB, has begun the movement of grains to its east-coast transfer elevators early this winter in order to take advantage of unexpected laker-vessel availability, a CWB official said.
The CWB's winter-rail program typically begins in late December.
The CWB implements the winter-rail program to transport grains from western Canada and already-stored supplies at Thunder Bay, Ontario, to eastern export facilities while the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Seaway are closed. Those waterways typically open again in late March.
"The unexpected availability of laker vessels was too good to pass up, and a decision was made to move the board grains into the eastern facilities early," said Maureen Fitzhenry, CWB media relations manager.
The laker vessels became available because of reduced demand to move other commodities, Fitzhenry said.
Fitzhenry also confirmed that the CWB has also begun its winter-rail program with Canadian Pacific Railway (CP) early as well.
"Our program with CP began Oct. 27," she said, noting that CP rail has moved 680 rail cars to eastern transfer elevators.
She said the CWB has not begun a winter rail program with Canadian National Railway (CNI), or CN, with negotiations continuing.
The winter rail program with CN will depend on the final vessel-movement total, she said.
"As a result, the CWB does not have any estimate on what the size of the 2008-09 (August/July) winter rail program will be at this time," Fitzhenry said.
The CWB's winter-rail program during the 2007-08 crop year totalled 1.069 million tonnes, up from 996,725 during 2006-07, Fitzhenry said.
The 2008 navigation season for the Montreal/Lake Ontario section of the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway system is tentatively scheduled to close around December 24.