Watch: 15 canal locks…shipping maize from Ontario to Ireland

Reporting from Ontario, Canada.

A major seaway, the Great Lakes, 15 locks and 183m later the Canadian maize (corn) travelling to Ireland – the majority of which originates from Ontario – crosses the Atlantic Ocean.

Ontario is a province which hosts one fifth of the world’s fresh water, due to the surrounding Great Lakes and this makes the journey of corn an interesting one.

Most ports in Ontario can load handy-sized vessels of 25,000t and these ports are accessible in Ontario due to the St. Lawrence Seaway.

Along this route, ships navigate through 15 locks which allow them to make their way through the waterways.

A bulk ship, containing 25,000t of grain fits through these locks with just about 1ft to spare.

The Journey

The St. Lawrence Seaway makes the journey possible. The first set of locks here are at the Welland Canal, which has eight locks.

The Welland Canal is featured in the video above. AgriLand saw a small ship pass through the lock at St. Catherine’s Ontario on Thursday, July 25.

After travelling through Lake Ontario ships must pass through a further seven locks before meeting the St. Lawrence River and heading on to the Atlantic Ocean.

A lock at the Welland Canal, St. Catherine’s, Ontario, Canada

Once finished travelling along the route the ships will have dropped to sea level – a total of 183m, from the lock at Lake Superior to the St. Lawrence River.

The total length of the Great Lakes and seaway system is 3,700km.

Grain also travels by rail and trucks

Grain destined for the US, which is a major market for Canada travels over the border by truck. Grain travels relatively easily across the border.

Rail is also used to transport seacan containers to the west coast ports or east to Montreal. Soybeans destined for Asia for example might travel by rail to the west coast before being shipped to Asia.

AgriLand watched a boat at a lock on the Welland Canal

Canadian imports

Last year, almost 1.6 million tonnes of maize were imported into the Republic of Ireland – 1,599,917t to be exact. 49% of that maize came from Canada.

Ireland has been the top importer of corn from Ontario for the past two seasons. In 2017/2018, Ireland imported 501,000t of corn from Ontario. As of May this year, 593,000t had been imported for the 2018/2019 season.

The Port of Hamillton, Ontario, Canada

Everyone might not be in agreement about importing corn to this country, but the grain transport structure available to the Canadian farmers is an impressive one and interesting to see.

AgriLand visited Ontario last week. Stay tuned for more updates from the trip.