Port of Churchill

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Port of Churchill

The Port of Churchill in Churchill, Manitoba, Canada is a port on Hudson Bay, part of the Arctic Ocean. It was originally owned by the Government of Canada but was sold in 1997 to the American company OmniTRAX to run privately.

The port has four deep-sea berths capable of handling Panamax-size vessels for the loading and unloading of grain, bulk commodities, general cargo, and tanker vessels.[1][2] The port is connected to the Hudson Bay Railway, a subsidiary of OmniTRAX. Further connections are made with the Canadian National Railway system. It is the only port of its size and scope in Canada that does not connect directly to the country's road system; all goods shipped overland to and from the port have to go by rail.

Port operations[edit]

The port is iced in for much of the year and is accessible only between late July and early November.[1] For example, in 2010 the shipping season was July 28 to Nov. 2.[3] Shallow waters also restrict its development as an ocean port. Despite these restrictions the port remains useful for shipping grain and other bulk cargos because shipping by rail costs several times as much, per ton, as shipping by sea.

The port is a compulsory pilotage area.[4] Pilotage is provided by the Great Lakes Pilotage Authority which despite its name is also responsible for pilotage on the Hudson Bay coast of the provinces of Ontario and Manitoba.[5] Pilotage charges between July 20 and October 31 follow a published schedule; outside these dates charges are based on cost recovery.[6]

Typically, the port is used for outgoing shipments of grain, usually from the Canadian Wheat Board.[7] Since 2007 port activity has diversified and increased in line with growth in Arctic mining operations in Nunavut and an expansion in supply ship reloading.[8] In September 2007 the port handled its first domestic export trade, shipping 12,500 tonnes of wheat to Halifax aboard the Arctic supply ship Kathryn Spirit.[8] On October 18, 2007 the port received its first import trade in seven years and the first ever from Russia, a shipment of fertilizer purchased by Farmers of North America. The shipment is supposed to be the beginning of an Arctic Bridge that would link Churchill with the Russian port of Murmansk.[1]

The port is almost entirely reliant on grain from the Canadian Wheat Board (CWB) for its viability. Wheat accounts for 90 per cent of all traffic through the port. According to a November 6, 2008 press release, the CWB shipped 424,000 tons of western Canadian wheat through the port of Churchill during the 2008 shipping season. The first wheat left port on August 8, and the last of 15 freighters left on October 20.[9] Exporting Prairie wheat through Churchill saves Canadian farmers money on transportation in terms of rail-freight costs and avoiding Saint Lawrence Seaway charges. The CWB encourages shipments through the use of its Churchill Storage Program which pays farmers to retain grain on-farm for later movement through the port. Because the Churchill shipping season begins before the new wheat crop is harvested each summer, the Storage Program ensures adequate volumes of grain are available for export by bringing in grain saved from the year before.

The port of Churchill exported 710,000 tonnes (700,000 long tons; 780,000 short tons) of grain in 1977, 621,000 tonnes in 2007, and 529,000 tonnes in 2009.[10] This fell to 432,434 tonnes (425,604 long tons; 476,677 short tons) in 2012, slightly below the ten-year moving average of 450,000.[11]

Alternatives to grain[edit]

The government of Manitoba has proposed that the Port of Churchill could serve as the North American terminus of an Arctic Bridge shipping service to Murmansk in Northern Russia. Containers from inland China and central Asia would be transported to Murmansk by Russian railways, shipped to Churchill then transported south by rail to major destinations in North America avoiding existing transport bottlenecks.[12]


  1. ^ a b c Friesen, Joe (2007-10-18). "Russian ship crosses 'Arctic bridge' to Manitoba". The Globe and Mail (CTVglobemedia Publishing). Retrieved 2008-09-05. 
  2. ^ "Churchill Port and Railway Owners Push to Ship Million Tonnes in 2008". Marketwire (Marketwire Inc.). 2007-11-05. Retrieved 2008-09-05. 
  3. ^ http://www.omnitrax.com/media-center/news/10-11-03/final-ship-of-season-departs-churchill.aspx
  4. ^ port of churchill: port operations
  5. ^ Great Lakes Pilotage Authority - About GLPA
  6. ^ Great Lakes Pilotage Tariff Regulations (SOR/84-253), SCHEDULE III: PILOTAGE CHARGES FOR THE PORT OF CHURCHILL, MANITOBA
  7. ^ Winnipeg Free Press
  8. ^ a b "Churchill port makes 1st domestic grain shipment". CBC News Canada (CBC). 2007-09-19. Retrieved 2008-09-05. 
  9. ^ http://www.cwb.ca/public/en/newsroom/releases/2008/110608.jsp
  10. ^ "Wheat exports big in Churchill". Winnipeg Free Press. 30 October 2009. Retrieved 2010-03-20. 
  11. ^ http://www.fcc-fac.ca/newsletters/en/express/articles/20121221_e.asp#story_3
  12. ^ "2010-11-01". 2010-12-13. Retrieved 2010-12-13. 

External links[edit]