In 2014, over 42 years after its first potash shipment in 1972, Canpotex Limited (Canpotex) achieved yet another milestone by supplying a total of 200 million tonnes of Saskatchewan potash to offshore customers—primarily to countries in Asia, Latin America and Oceania.
“200 million tonnes is a significant number,” notes Canpotex’s President and Chief Executive Officer, Steve Dechka. “We take great satisfaction in knowing that Saskatchewan potash has consistently satisfied our international customers and assisted them in contributing to global food security. Saskatchewan is helping feed the world in other words, one potash shipment at a time.”
Aside from the millions and millions of international farmers that have benefited from our province’s potash, a portion of our product has always gone for industrial purposes. Currently, for example, 5% of Saskatchewan’s potash is used to manufacture potassium hydroxide (KOH), a feedstock for other potassium chemicals that is used in a wide variety of industrial processes such as glass making, pharmaceuticals, food processing and the manufacture of textiles.
Growing relationships and growing food security in the world
Dechka believes that Canpotex’s success is largely due to the long-term relationships it has successfully built with its international partners and the consistently high-quality product it has delivered in an efficient and economic manner: “Canpotex sells over 20 grades of high-quality potash to a growing group of global partners around the world. We are fortunate that Saskatchewan has such high-quality product to offer the world and that we have the partners in place that are able to utilize it to help feed the world’s growing population.”
“Many many people have taken this journey with Canpotex,” Dechka remarks, “and we are grateful to have in place now the key personnel that form the backbone of our international marketing and logistics efforts. It is in a real sense, people trusting people to do their jobs and to deliver on their promises to many diverse and challenging markets. Two hundred million tonnes equals a lot of loyalty, commitment, hard work and trust.”
“We indeed are a global company in so many ways,” explains Dechka, “For example, we intentionally place our international marketing offices in close proximity to key market areas so that we can better serve our customers’ needs, but also understand their cultures and their values.”
In April 2014, Canpotex officially opened a new Shanghai Representative Office to further strengthen its relationships and better serve its growing customer base in China. Dechka describes, “Opening an office on the China mainland will help to facilitate the relationships that Canpotex prides itself on, and operating directly from a China base will allow Canpotex to better understand and serve its customers in this growing, evolving and complicated market.”
Canpotex partners with leaders in the transportation industry
“Growing potash sales will also require a growing and even more efficient supply chain in the future,” notes Dechka. “Our people work around-the-clock with global suppliers and industry partners to transport our products to many diverse and challenging markets to the point where we have essentially become a 24/7 worldwide operation!”
As a competitive world supplier of potash to over 60 countries during a 42-year period, Canpotex understands the importance of an efficient and economic logistics system. Dechka explains, “Over the years, we have strategically invested in our delivery network to successfully accommodate the world’s increasing demand for potash. Our investments in the past have included a fleet of specially-designed railcars, a railcar maintenance facility, several deep water marine terminals and efficient state-of-the-art bulk cargo vessels.”
One of Canpotex’s first major logistical investments was back in 1992, when Canpotex invested CDN $30 million to expand Neptune Bulk Terminals (Canada) Ltd. in Vancouver, British Columbia. That investment included the addition of a new potash storage shed, state-of-the-art reclaimer, and a second dumper pit. Canpotex subsequently invested in a second shipping terminal at Portland, Oregon in 1997; that facility was designed to provide a second load port alternative for Canpotex and to facilitate the efficient movement and handling of specialty grade industrial potash products.
In 1999, Canpotex went on to commission a fleet of over 2,000 new railcars that were specifically designed to accommodate the bulk density of potash and maximize volumes and railcar utilization. Fourteen years later, this fleet has now grown to approximately 5,400 railcars, and Canpotex sales have more than doubled to 200 million tonnes of potash sales.
In 2012, Canpotex opened a state-of-the-art Railcar Maintenance Facility near Lanigan, Saskatchewan to maintain these railcars and better manage and control its railcar fleet. This facility provides Canpotex railcars with all-weather inspection, repair and maintenance, automated railcar wash, wheel repairs and replacement, and on-site railcar storage and switching; it is the only facility owned by any single bulk shipper in North America.
Canpotex’s commitment to innovation in potash handling and delivery is ongoing
“It took Canpotex 27 years to achieve 100 million tonnes of sales, 14 years to achieve a second 100 million tonnes, and I am optimistic we are now on track to reach the 300 million tonne milestone during the next decade!” Dechka concludes.