SAINT JOHN – Potash exports are the mainstay of Port Saint John’s dry bulk business, and that’s perhaps truer now than when the Picadilly mine was still in operation before it closed three years ago.
In 2014, the Sussex mine exported 628,520 metric tonnes of potash through the port to foreign markets. In 2015, it shipped 646,221 metric tonnes.
After the mine was closed in early 2016, PotashCorp launched a joint venture with fellow potash producers Atrium and Mosaic called Canpotex, which began transporting potash by rail from mines in Saskatchewan to Saint John, which was then shipped to customers in South and Central America.
In 2018, PotashCorp merged with Agrium to become Nutrien, which maintained its partnership with Mosaic in Canpotex. The offshore sales group significantly boosted potash shipments through Port Saint John.
“When the New Brunswick operation stopped using the port it was still very important to Nutrien because it does serve the South American and Brazilian market, which is huge. It became a valued resource,” said Doug Doney, the New Brunswick general manager for Nutrien.
Doney will be the keynote speaker for the breakfast session that will kick off a day of speeches and panel discussions June 11 at Port Days, the annual conference that brings together industry members, government stakeholders and business leaders to discuss issues related to the ongoing development of Port Saint John.
Nutrien is an integral part of that growth, as it seeks to leverage the strategic advantage of the port to reach existing and future markets.
Shipments of potash out of the port have greatly increased since 2014, topping more than a million metric tonnes in two straight years (1,408,244 in 2017 and 1,021,401 in 2018). The volume of shipments may increase as Canpotex explores new markets.
“[Port Saint John] opens a window for us down the road, whether it’s Africa or Europe,” says Doney. “There is potential for those markets to be served quite well from Saint John. It’s positioned very well to serve South and Central America, but also Europe and potentially Africa.”
Even though the mine has been shut down, Nutrien continues to employ people in Sussex in the decommissioning process. The company also recently won a contract to supply salt to the province, which secured the jobs of 50 people for another two years.
The salt contract could also lead to a potential export opportunity for the port in the future, says Doney.
“The partnership with the province is important,” he says. “It keeps the mine operating and keeps jobs in the local area. Hopefully, we can grow that business down the road. At this point, there are no plans to ship salt offshore, but if the opportunity arose down the road, we would investigate that.”
Port Days takes place June 9-11 at the Saint John Trade & Convention Centre. To register for the conference and buy tickets to popular annual events like the golf tournament and the Seafood Fiesta, attended by 750 people each year, visit the online registration page for Port Days: https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/port-days-2019-registration-59396023104?ref=ebtnebregn
This story is sponsored by Port Saint John.