Intermodal Grain Supply Chain
JUL 05, 2019

Thinking Outside The Box - CN’s Intermodal Grain Supply Chain

CN’s grain intermodal franchise on the Prairies is second to none - and poised for growth in the heart of southern Saskatchewan

When it comes to how much grain and processed grain product is moving off the Prairies by rail, the focus is always on hopper cars, along with tank cars and boxcars. Through June 2019, over the first 11 months of the 2018-19 crop year, CN had moved a million tonnes more grain (+4%) from western Canada (25.5 MMT) compared to the previous record of 24.5 MMT set back in 2016-17.

And then there’s intermodal. All of the grain moving out of the Prairies in intermodal containers is in addition to that volume, and CN leads this segment of the market. Shipping grain by intermodal unlocks additional capacity for grain producers, and to producers, whether it’s a tonne moving in a hopper car or in a 20 foot export container, it’s a tonne delivered and a tonne paid for. CN moves over one million tonnes of grain out of the Prairies yearly in containers alone. That’s the same amount of volume that three or four high throughput elevators might move over the course of the year.

CN InterMobile

CN’s strong relationships with steamship lines is also a big part of the story as is the source loading program that CN offers to customers. Instead of a CN intermodal train moving 20and 40 foot export containers back to the port empty, containers are dropped off at a CN yard, trucked out to a facility and loaded with bulk or bagged product, hauled back to the yard, and put on another train to move to the port. Source loading is a way of tapping into unused supply chain capacity to move more grain. Loading empty containers at source is an efficient use of container capacity and frees up carload capacity that would have otherwise hauled the product to the port for transloading there.

It’s like picking up an intermodal terminal from the port and dropping it into the middle of the Prairies – and today, the CN Saskatoon Intermodal Terminal is ground zero for this program. The equivalent of around 200 hopper cars per week of grain move in and out of this facility – and during the fall and winter when demand for grain movement is at its peak, every bit counts.

Right in the heart of southern Saskatchewan, East Regina Intermodal Terminal, Canada’s first privately operated intermodal facility will be served exclusively by CN. This facility represents an opportunity for grain shippers in southern Saskatchewan to tap into CN’s proven model for moving grain by container, with CN rail service to the Atlantic, Pacific, and Gulf Coasts. CN and Intermobil are working together to give customers more supply chain solutions in a dynamic marketplace.

Intermodal truck

For grain shipments in containers, please contact Chipalo Simunyola at 204-934-7358 or email Western Sales Team.