How did the Port of Thunder Bay begin serving the wind energy industry as a western Canadian transportation corridor?

Tim Heney: The Port of Thunder Bay is Canada’s gateway to the West, built as a crucial transportation link connecting the western provinces of Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba with the world. It is a diverse port, serving as an export point for grain, coal, potash and forest products, and an inbound destination for other dry bulk such as stone and salt, liquid bulk products, and general and project cargo.

An exciting development over the past decade has been the port’s evolution into a hub for dimensional and heavy-lift project cargo shipments for western Canadian destinations. The success in this initiative stems from the port’s strategic location, and its value-added services and facilities. The port has established itself as a competitive supply chain link for accessing wind energy projects in western Canada. Thunder Bay is a viable alternative to more congested ports and has the closest proximity by land to western Canada of any port east of the Rockies.

How has Thunder Bay positioned itself as the hub for wind energy cargo for western Canada?

Wind energy shipments are handled at Keefer Terminal, a sprawling facility with direct access to the Canadian National and Canadian Pacific railways, as well as the Trans-Canada Highway and US highways. Thunder Bay wants to provide exemplary service for its wind energy cargo customers. One example of this is the purchase of a caboose that customers use as a monitoring tool for cargo travelling by train from Keefer to its destination in western Canada.

The port authority’s strategic investment has also been key to the success of its initiative. We’ve invested C$15 million in Keefer Terminal over the past decade to support the handling and shipment of these cargoes. Upgrades include the development of extensive laydown areas, an expansive, heated clear-span warehouse and a Liebherr mobile harbour crane.

What are its benefits compared with other ports or terminals?

Keefer Terminal’s significant infrastructure gives it a competitive advantage in the shipment and storage of wind energy cargo destined for western Canada. That infrastructure includes 750m of marine berth; acres of indoor and outdoor laydown and storage capacity; an intermodal yard with a 200-car-capacity marshalling yard; and on-dock rail access to both national railways.

The terminal is augmented by a talented service industry offering value-added services such as fabrication and assembly. Two stevedoring companies, Logistec Stevedoring and Empire Stevedoring, offer expert service and efficient cargo handling.

An added benefit for the shipper is the availability of bulk cargo as back-haul to foreign or domestic ports. Thunder Bay is the largest outbound port on the seaway, offering grain from western Canada for export. The port ships eight million tons annually of wheat, canola, oats and other grains to destinations around the world. Broad ownership of Thunder Bay’s eight grain elevators includes some of the world’s largest agribusiness companies. These elevators combine to form the largest grain storage capacity in Canada.

Are there any investments or expansions planned to bolster your wind energy cargo efforts?

Thunder Bay Port Authority continues to augment the offering of Keefer Terminal, with millions of dollars set aside in its five-year business plan for reconfiguration of the facility. Planned upgrades include heated indoor storage space, laydown area expansion and rail improvements.