Port of Buffalo on Pace for Best Season in a Decade

“Exploding” is the one-word Patricia C. Schreiber, the Port Director at Port of Buffalo, used to describe the port’s exceptional 2020 navigation season — which began on April 12, 2020 — thus far.

Through early September, the Port of Buffalo welcomed 15 vessels to the port with more scheduled to arrive in the remainder of the navigation season.

Attracting new commodities to the port through unique business opportunities and partnerships has been key for the Port of Buffalo’s success during 2020. The diverse mix of commodities at the forefront of the Port of Buffalo’s busy season are sugar, wind turbines and salt.

“Projects that we’ve been working on for years have finally come to fruition. We’ve expanded the realm of everybody’s projects here by offering as much as we can whether it’s transloading, warehousing, rail or dock-side service, and even long-term storage.”

The organic port: Stacking shipments of sugar seven high

The Port of Buffalo’s sugar business began in fall 2019 when Schreiber worked to attract a new terminal customer shipping sugar to the Great Lakes region with the port’s 40,000 square foot warehouse.

“We were able to develop this new partnership because we’re a one stop shop with certified weigh scales and the ability to bring in material via vessel and out by either train or truck,” notes Schreiber. “We were and continue to be responsible for offloading bags of sugar from the vessel, stacking them into our warehouse and scaling our customer’s trucks for shipping.”

However, in 2020, this new partnership developed in a unique way.

“This year, our customer decided that they were only going to ship organic sugar,” says Schreiber. “So, we created a custom solution on their behalf. To handle the organic sugar shipments, we decided to certify the Port of Buffalo as an organic port.”

In order to do so, the Port of Buffalo worked with a broker to conduct rigorous inspections ensuring the port abided by the rules of handling organic cargos. Following the port’s successful certification, the customer brought in one organic sugar vessel out of Argentina.

“Right after we unloaded that vessel, they decided that they wanted to bring in two more consecutive shipments. The second shipment was another bulk vessel, but the third shipment that they sent was 16,000 metric tons of bagged sugar. So, we unloaded them and stacked them seven bags high in our warehouse,” Schreiber describes.

The shipments of organic sugar which began at the start of April 2020 continue to be steady at the Port of Buffalo.

Ready for takeoff: Early shipments of wind turbines lift Port of Buffalo

As has been seen throughout the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway System, international shipments of wind energy components are taking off. The Port of Buffalo in particular is no stranger to this trend.

“Wind turbines are long-term bids. The process starts out about two years before the project itself comes in. But our hard work paid off. This year, we’ve been handling multiple shipments of wind turbines. To us [the Port of Buffalo] that means a full dock for the season. It’s kept us busy all the way into fall,” notes Schreiber.

With an increased focus on commodity diversification through project cargo, early season shipments of wind turbines landed at the Port of Buffalo. This season, a total of five vessels carried wind turbines venturing from Germany and Korea to the port.

Winter is coming: Keeping our roads and highways safe 

On the forefront of Schreiber’s mind is winter — and with that, shipments of salt which are used to keep roads and highways from icing during winter months.

“We won the Erie County Highway contract this year,” Schreiber says. “Our port stores the highway salt for the county and, then, we’ll load and weigh the salt for the for the municipalities that pick it up and any contractors that would like to purchase it.”

In total, the Port of Buffalo will receive 200,000 tons of salt. In early September, the port handled three shipments of salt and is anticipating six more through the rest of the 2020 navigation season.