The local port has been busy this year still dealing with last year’s bumper grain crop, even creating 40 new jobs in the city.
In July alone, the Thunder Bay Port Authority saw more than one million tonnes of grain come through the port, up from nearly 361,000 tonnes in July 2013.
United Steelworks union service and staff representative Herbert Daniher said the 40 new positions are because of the higher levels of grain moving through the city’s port and because of restructuring within the industry.
But only time will tell if those positions become permanent.
“On an interim basis, this will provide some opportunities for some employment in Thunder Bay. Whether it’s permanent or not that totally remains to be seen on grain volumes and on what the levelling out is after the season ends,” said Daniher.
Working in the local industry since 1975, Daniher said the port has always been cyclical and had its ups and downs.
“It’s feast or famine in a lot of cases,” he said. “For now we’ll take it for what it is and it’s busy. That’s good for the port. It’s good for the community. It’s good for the workers that are working in the industry currently and we’ll see where it takes us.”
Although the season has been busy, Daniher said it’s really only a bit better than an average season.
This season will see between six and seven million tonnes, but in the port’s heyday in the 1980s, it would see about 17 million tonnes.
“I remember looking out in the harbour in years gone by where you’d have 20 boats waiting for grain. You might see two or three now,” said Daniher. “It’s nothing like we saw before.”
And with less elevators operating in the city, Daniher isn’t sure the port could handle those huge loads anymore.
“This is the new reality and this is the new busy,” he said.