By Leo Ryan, AJOTIn the bulk shipping sector in Canada, much attention has shifted in the past few years to the West Coast and the tremendous surge of trade with Asia. Traditional bulk trades remain a key activity in ports throughout eastern Canada, however, despite the special focus of maritime gateways like Montreal and Halifax on containerized traffic. Driving demand is the current buoyant economic environment in Canada of about three percent growth forecast for both this year and in 2006 and the continued rebound in Great Lakes steel mills. Christos Constantatos, operations manager/chartering for Montreal-based Poros Shipping Agencies, also singles out petroleum for moving “a lot of bulk to refineries in Montreal and Quebec City, in Saint John (New Brunswick) and in Newfoundland.” Looking at ports showing strong potential, Constantatos points to the deepwater Port of Quebec’s success as a strategic hub for the transshipment of bulk cargo between the industrial and agricultural heartland of North America and world markets. Recent investments in facilities and equipment by various stakeholders have exceeded C$150 million. Indeed, with the capacity to accommodate vessels of more than 150,000 dwt, port president Ross Gaudreault likes to portray Quebec City as “the deep-water gateway to the Great Lakes.” Last year, the Port of Quebec handled a record 22 million metric tons. This included ores and concentrated nickel from Australia destined for Ontario and Manitoba; alumina from South America; ores and concentrated lead from Brazil bound for Lake Michigan; and metallurgical coke from China. This year, the port expects to receive 500,000 tons of coke from China for Great Lakes steel mills. At the Port of Montreal, where total traffic amounted to 23.6 million tons in 2004, the container component has attained 45% of overall cargo and is expected to represent half of total throughput by 2010. Nevertheless, first quarter 2005 statistics show a 50% increase in breakbulk and gains in both liquid and dry bulk. As part of its strategy to diversify the cargo base for its underutilized deepwater facilities, the Port of Halifax has organized a May 16-25 trade mission to Japan, Korea, Taiwan and China, with a chief emphasis on promoting the Suez route to transport exports to North America via Halifax. At the same time, the Nova Scotia port is encouraging the growth of bulk and breakbulk cargo. For instance, National Gypsum increased its exports through Halifax by 9.5% last year. Oil continues to dominate the scene at the Bay of Fundy Port of Saint John, where Irving Oil’s private facilities accounted for 92% of the port’s total 2004 traffic of 26.2 million tons. Dry bulk cargoes, namely potash and salt, represent the largest commodities handled at the Saint John Port Authority facilities. Great Lakes/Seaway bulk cargo For its part, although the St. Lawrence Seaway is striving to develop new cargo with an eye on attracting container feeder vessels or even spillover business from Asia due to capacity problems at West Coast ports, its prime vocation continues to be the traditional bulk trades. Last year, Seaway traffic rose 6.5% to 43.5 million tons. The figures break down as follows: iron ore at 10.4 million tons, grain at 9.3 million tons, coal at 4.2 million tons, other bulk at 15.2 million tons and general cargo (mainly steel) at 4.3 million tons. Richard Corfe, president and CEO of Canada‚s St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation, sees traffic increasing between 5% and 7% in 2005. “All market sectors are showing demand at or above 2004 levels,” concurs Wayne Smith, vice-president marketing and vessel traffic for Seaway Marine Transport, which operates the largest fleet (34 vessels) on the waterway. With the worldwide steel sector enjoying boom times, steel has provided a boost to inbound steel volumes, says Jim Easey, vice-president, chartering, of Fednav International, the biggest ocean-going user. Among the Canadian Great Lak