CN Rail delays have caused Prince Rupert Grain to cancel 350,000 tonnes of business up until the end of December 2017.
“We expect to cancel additional tonnage or business in next two weeks,” Bruce Grant, terminal manager for Prince Rupert Grain Ltd., said a day after CN Rail released a public apology to its grain customers in Western Canada.
“Our understanding is there is a shortage of crews and locomotive power, not rail cars. The volume of rail cars coming into the Port of Prince Rupert increased except for grain, which fell. When you look at that it tells you something,” Grant said.
The company expected to handle volumes similar to last year, based on last fall’s crop harvest, which was more than six million tonnes.
“It depends on service going forward. CN talked about being able to improve. We have to see how that’s going to happen and see how much improvement, if any, that will come,” he said.
Grant added that it’s not exactly known how much more tonnage Rupert Grain will have to cancel, but it will be substantial.
He said the company is not planning to lay anyone off, but that the financial impact is huge.
On March 7, the day CN Rail released its public apology, five vessels sat in the Port of Prince Rupert, waiting for grain shipments.
Mark Hemmes, the president of watchdog Quorum Corporation, said that number of vessels is high for Rupert’s port.
In an email on March 8, Hemmes said, “There are normally two to three grain vessels in at any one time. A couple of weeks ago it was up to eight so we are seeing some improvement. At one point in February 2014 it was 17.”
While vessels normally remain in port for an average of 12 to 14 days, Hemmes said, the past couple of months has seen an average of 18 days.
“The problem has been a shortfall in the supply of rail cars in the country to meet the sales programs the grain companies and Prince Rupert Grain have planned for. CN has had issues with meeting their targeted volumes and as such we are seeing this backlog,” he said.
The Port of Prince Rupert declined to comment at this time.