The Keefer Terminal, located in the Port of Thunder Bay, is an ideal hub for shipping and storing large pieces of infrastructure for a variety of projects (project cargo); advantages include cost effectiveness, transit time and reliability.
Keefer Terminal was built in the 1960s and has undergone extensive upgrades over the past two decades. The 80-acre facility handles general and project cargo like bridge components and pre-engineered buildings shipped from overseas, said Chris Heikkinen, director of business development and communications, Port of Thunder Bay.
The port’s stevedoring partner, Logistec, handles a wide variety of oversized cargo at Keefer, including wind turbine components, steel products such as pipes, steel rails and structural steel, as well as pieces of infrastructure for the oil sands. Most of this cargo moves by ocean-going vessels from overseas via the Seaway system and is unloaded at Keefer Terminal, Canada’s most remote inland port.
Due to the port’s proximity to Western Canada, Heikkinen explained that shipping to Thunder Bay minimizes ground transportation which can be cumbersome and expensive for heavy or bulky cargo.
“The advantage is that you are transporting your bulky cargo as far inland as possible on a ship, so you have less logistical work trying to get your cargo to your final destination by rail or truck. , which may result in additional costs,” he said.
“These cargoes alternately put a lot of pressure on road or rail and require many more wagons or truck beds to transport these cargoes than a single ship, so you reduce congestion on the land transportation network. It’s also safer for those on the road,” he said. “Some of this cargo is so large that when you put it on the road, it needs an escort team, so it pays to minimize the disruption it causes on the roads.”
Most of the time, major infrastructure projects are completed in stages, and because the port has invested in a large laydown area at Keefer, product can be stored and delivered as needed so consignees do not need to take all of their product at once, which is another benefit, Heikkinen said.
The Port of Thunder Bay and Keefer Terminal is a cost-effective route for shipping projects and general cargo to a Canadian destination. Heikkinen explains that the additional costs at alternative US ports add up: “Shipping via the US adds additional customs clearance. In the United States there is also a port maintenance tax on port cargoes, which does not exist in Canada,” he said.
The Keefer Terminal also handles products that support agriculture and Northern Ontario projects
While Keefer primarily handles cargo that supports large infrastructure projects in Western Canada, it also handles products that benefit agriculture.
A recent addition to Keefer’s business is the import of Moroccan phosphate fertilizers. Fertilizer is dumped into Keefer’s indoor storage space — which is approximately 550,000 square feet — and then shipped to prairie farms for crop production. These agricultural inputs have a direct impact on the port’s most important industry: bulk exports of wheat, canola and other prairie-grown grains that are shipped overseas. Thunder Bay’s grain elevators process 8 to 9 million tonnes of western Canadian grain annually, providing return cargo to vessels carrying project shipments to Keefer.
Keefer also recently managed some mining equipment for the construction of a gold mine under construction in Greenstone. Heikkinen said when there are cargoes that need to be moved for mining and other sectors in Northern Ontario, the port also facilitates those movements.
Last year, Keefer Terminal handled record volumes of projects and general cargo, and the port expects to top that success this year, with a particular focus on increasing shipments of steel products.
To learn more about the Keefer Terminal in the Port of Thunder Bay, call 807-345-6400 or contact them today!