CN is getting ready for the post-harvest rush while also keeping an eye out for any possible disruptions.
Vice-President of Grain David Przednowek says they're seeing numbers grow.
"We've seen the volumes ramp up, of course with the wrap-up or close to near wrap-up of harvest across the prairies. If you take a look at the two-week averages going back to the first half of September, we were around 600,000 tons of grain and processed grain shipments per week out of Western Canada for the last half of September that had ramped up to 650,000 tons on average per week and for the first two weeks of October, we're close to 700,000 tons.
"From the perspective of operational performance for those orders that CN's planned in the past two weeks, CN supplied 97% of those orders within the warrant week requested by customers. So we've seen the ramp-up continue here and we've seen strong operational performance overall, with respect to order fulfillment."
Przednowek says that a recent work stoppage by another rail company impacted fluidity in their lines.
That stoppage has been completed, though there's another situation that could affect movement.
"The union associated with workers that work along the Great Lakes Saint Lawrence seaway gave strike notice on Thursday of this week, which means 72-hour strike notice gets you to a potential labour disruption as early as Sunday. That would shut down the movement of traffic up and down the Great Lakes Saint Lawrence seaway system, not only for grain, but of course, for all commodities moving up and down."
"CN is working closely with its customers on contingency planning in the event of a strike. Of course, a lot of traffic moves from Thunder Bay to transfer elevators in the Saint Lawrence. There's also opportunities to move grain directly via rail over the lakes to get grain into facilities such as in Montreal and Quebec City, and that's going to be an ongoing process for watching this very closely and we'll see what the outcome is."
In addition, another problem could pop up at Vancouver ports as some rain problems may rear their head again.
"It was a year ago now where we had some really wicked persistent heavy rain sock in at the port of Vancouver and by the last week of October CN had 20 trains staged either along the route to Vancouver or back in the country because we couldn't advance them because terminals were plugged and unable to operate because of the limited ability to load grain into vessels during periods of inclement weather."
"A working group has been brought together by the federal government. It's a year later there has been no movement on this file. It's starting to rain again in the port of Vancouver. This is a real impact to the supply chain, it's 2023 and still, we have limited ability in the port of Vancouver to load grain during inclement weather. This is a factor that's really important to watch here, especially if we get a wicked stretch of bad rain in the port because that is going to cause congestion and issues."