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Record load to arrive today in Thunder Bay

(The following article appeared on The Chronicle-Journal website on August 5.)

THUNDER BAY, Ontario — The largest single piece of cargo ever handled by Thunder Bay‘s port is to arrive today.

Coming from Japan and headed to Fort McMurray, Alta., the 400-tonne reactor is a component of an oilsands upgrader, said Tim Heney, chief executive officer for the Thunder Bay Port Authority.

It‘s owned by Canadian Natural Resources, a Calgary-based oil and natural gas exploration and production company.

The Jumbo Shipping vessel carrying the reactor is owned by a company with specialized boats equipped with cranes large enough to move such giant pieces of cargo.

The ship is to arrive this morning.

But, Heney said Monday, it could take as much as eight hours for the ship to prepare for unloading – taking off inner decks and changing inner ballast – so it‘s not yet known if the reactor will be unloaded today or Wednesday, a task that could take another four hours or more.

Fifteen feet in diameter and 115 feet long, the reactor is going straight from here to Alberta via CN Rail.

“CN has reinforced their bridges and actually chipped away a few of the rock cuts between Thunder Bay and Fort Frances so they can do more of these pieces in the future,” Heney said.

“There‘s going to be several more this year, and quite a large number of them coming over the next couple of years,” he said. “They‘re looking at Thunder Bay as a new gateway for these types of equipment coming through.”

Typically, Thunder Bay‘s port only has one or two shipments like this each year. The next piece is due in November, and will be a bit heavier, Heney said.

Previously, large equipment headed for Canada‘s oilfields went through Duluth or Houston, but those routes mean changing trains and two customs clearances.

With a direct rail route to Alberta, using Thunder Bay has its advantages, Heney said.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

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