Thunder Bay Port Authority

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Thunder Bay Port Authority
Marina park4, Thunder Bay by Richard Ogima.jpg
A big bulk carrier, off the shore of Thunder Bay
Thunder Bay Port Authority
Country Canada
Location Thunder Bay, Ontario
Coordinates 48°24′23″N89°13′01″W / 48.40651°N 89.21702°W / 48.40651; -89.21702 Coordinates: 48°24′23″N89°13′01″W / 48.40651°N 89.21702°W / 48.40651; -89.21702
Land area32 hectares
Draft depth 9 metres (30 ft)
CEOTim Heney
Annual cargo tonnage10.2 million metric revenue tons [1]
Vessel calls482 [1]
Terminals5 [2]
Grain elevators8

The Thunder Bay Port Authority is a port authority in Thunder Bay, Ontario, which was created by the Canada Marine Act of 1998. [3] The 19 port authorities created by the act were 19 of the 20 most economically significant ports in Canada. The port is primarily a grain shipping port for Western Canada, with approximately 85% of the cargo tonnage consisting of grain exported to ports around the world. [1] Coal and potash make up most of the remaining cargo of the port, though increasingly wind turbine supplies going to Western Canada are also shipped through the port. [1] [4] In 2019, 429 ships called at the port, with 316 being domestic vessels and 113 foreign vessels. [4] The 2019 shipping season saw an increase of 500,000 tonnes to 9.3 million for the year, with most of the increase coming through the grain sector, though white potash numbers were also up. [4]


The port authority is under the supervision of Canada's Federal Minister of Transport, and is responsible for 56 kilometres (35 mi) of shoreline, 26 km2 (10 sq mi) of shore and 119 km2 (46 sq mi) of water. [5]


The historical beginnings of the port lay with the North American fur trade and French voyageurs in 1678. [6] [7] Fort William was erected on the Kaministiquia River in 1805 in what is called the East End and the fort was soon the site of frequent canoe and ship visits, the first for the area. [6] A second port was also established soon after at Prince Arthur's Landing, later called Port Arthur, and located in what is now north Thunder Bay. During the Red River Rebellion in Manitoba, troops from Central Canada were sent to quell the uprising via Port Arthur. [6]

A small rivalry was born between these two ports over the next decades. It was this spirit of competition that helped two communities thrive, silver was discovered there and the railroad came in the 1870s and 1880s. [7] The cities’ building boom ended in the early 20th Century, but World War I saw shipbuilding increase in the port areas as well as munititions manufacturing. [7] The communities of Fort William and Port Arthur competed with each other until they amalgamated as Thunder Bay in 1969. [6]

When the St. Lawrence Seaway opened in 1959 this meant that the port was now opened to ocean going vessels nicknamed "salties", while Great Lakes freighters were known as "lakers". Salties were frequently freight and container laden vessels, so Keefer Terminal opened in the same year of 1959 to serve as a freight terminal. [6] More modernization in the form of automated grain elevators saw an increase in loading rates, with shorter stays of vessels. This led to highs of 1,749 ships carrying 16,955,937 tonnes in 1964, while the annual shipping record for the port in tonnes was set when 1,359 vessels carried 22,397,940 tonnes in 1983. [6]

The mid 1970s to the 1980s was the busiest period in the history of the port, with 1983 this peak in 1983. [6] This was driven in part by grain shipments to Russia and ending when the Canadian government ended loan guarantees to them in 1983. [6] Recent times have seen the Thunder Bay Port Authority decline as it struggled against economic pressures from outside. [7] Grain shippers increasingly preferred ports on the British Columbia Coast and grain shipments continued to decline until recent years. [1] [7] Both industry and shipping ventures in the area decreased and the Thunder Bay Port Authority shifted to a role as a regional service center for Northwestern Ontario and Western Canada, though grain shipments continue to be the backbone of the port. [7]

Cargo statistics

Cargo Statistics in tonnes over the past five years [1]
YearGrainCoalPotashDry BulkLiquid BulkGeneral CargoTotal Tonnes

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  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 "Port Cargo Statistics 1952-Present". Thunder Bay Port Authority. Retrieved 2021-02-23.
  2. "Port facilities". Thunder Bay Port Authority. Retrieved 2021-02-23.
  3. "Organization Profile - Thunder Bay Port Authority". Transport Canada. Archived from the original on 2013-12-21. Retrieved 2014-01-03. Under the 1995 National Marine Policy, 19 major Canadian ports were deemed vital to Canada's domestic and international trade. These 19 ports were designated Canada Port Authorities (CPAs) under The Canada Marine Act which received Royal Assent on June 11, 1998.
  4. 1 2 3 "2019 shipping season strong: Port of Thunder Bay". CBC News . January 14, 2020. Retrieved 2021-02-24.
  5. "Thunder Bay Port Authority" (PDF). Thunder Bay Community Economic Development Council. Archived (PDF) from the original on 2013-06-10. Retrieved 2014-01-03.
  6. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Rev. Ed Swayze (April 13, 2012). "The Port of Thunder Bay and the Mission to Seafarers". The Mission to Seafarers: Canada. Retrieved 2021-02-25.
  7. 1 2 3 4 5 6 "Thunder Bay Port Authority". World Port Source. Retrieved 2021-02-25.