Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Grain shipment delays the latest concern for users of Prince Rupert port facilities

A grain ship at anchorage in Prince Rupert harbour, delays with CN Rail 
in bringing crops to Port in Prince Rupert, has  industry observers 
making note of reduced shipment volumes at local facilities.

The current troubles facing CN Rail in delivering cargo to terminal facilities on the North Coast has raised a few alarms in the Canadian heartland, with farmers and grain shippers now expressing their concerns over delays in getting the crops to buyers.

And to get a quick snapshot of what some of those delays may look like, you only have to find a vantage point in the city to count the growing number of grain ships sitting idle in Prince Rupert harbour at anchorage.

According to reports from prairie grain shippers, the Port of Prince Rupert is looking at half the volume of rail cars arriving that would normally be the case, with a tally of eight grain vessels waiting at anchorage in Prince Rupert harbour for shipments out of Prince Rupert as of February 14th.

Those kind of delays will have an impact on Prince Rupert Grain and the new Ray-Mont grain stuffing facility on Ridley Island, with the prospect of  the volume of shipment arrivals continuing to decrease should the CN troubles carry forward into March.

CN Rail is putting the focus on winter weather for ongoing delays in grain shipments,
while customers are suggesting that there are larger issues with the rail way
when it comes to the level of service this winter 

CN is pointing towards an extraordinary winter season as the main cause of the delivery issues to port terminals, offering a tutorial through the CN website on how winter conditions affect their service.

Though when it comes to the current issues facing the railway,  many observers of the grain industry suggest that CN's problems are much deeper than cold weather and large snow levels.

With industry officials speaking towards equipment and staffing issues that CN has to deal with as they try to accommodate growing levels of transportation for their container service and the shipment of other goods.

Those in the grain industry have observed that for the most part CN is essentially taking workers  and equipment usually dedicated towards the movement of grain and putting the focus instead on the flow of container shipments and other products.

We noted earlier this month how the container shipment industry was also expressing its concern over timely service by CN, with diversions of ships to other ports and other rail lines now becoming a growing option for those looking to transit from North American to Asia.

CN has indicated that it is looking to address the crunch by leasing extra equipment and hiring and training more workers, but for the grain industry those measures are providing for some cold comfort for a winter that is shaping up to be a challenging one for grain companies and farmers.

Such is the concern from some of CN's customers that a number are making alternate arrangements to ship their goods, whether with CP Rail through to Vancouver, or by way of the U.S. with other transportation options.

As well as those taking their own actions, the grain industry is pointing towards stalled legislation in the Senate, where they are asking for the quick approval and implementation of Bill C-49 which will allow shippers to take advantage of long haul inter switching, which will allow them much more felxibility to move their product to other lines.

The ongoing situation also may soon hit CN in the revenue stream, with financial observers noting that since the start of the year the value of a CN portfolio has dropped 8 per cent.

A setback that CN"s CFO acknowledged as part of a recent quarterly report which will make for a challenging first quarter.

Though perhaps not quite as challenging as the situation facing Canada's agriculture industry, a collective that is just looking for a way to get their shipments to market.

How CN gets crops from inland terminals to port facilities is part of an overview of their Grain service which you can review here.

You can review some of the anger from those sectors below:

CN's grain-shipping performance getting worse
Rail bottleneck puts squeeze on Saskatchewan farmers
Grain industry facing 'dire situation' as backlog of shipments grow
Canadian National's 'gold standard' reputation dulled amid rail crunch

For more items related to CN Rail in the Northwest see our archive page here.

Items of interest related to the Grain shipment facilities in Prince Rupert can be found from our two archives listed below:

Prince Rupert Grain
Ray-Mont Logistics

To return to the most recent blog posting of the day, click here.

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