TORONTO, Ont.—The St. Lawrence Seaway’s 10th annual HWY H2O Conference launched today in Toronto, with a welcome from Terence Bowles, President and CEO of the St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation.
Bowles said he was really excited about celebrating the 10th anniversary of the conference, and about recognizing the “various members that have been with us for over 10 years. ‘Building from a strong foundation’ is the conference theme. The market is always shifting, and surprises every year. We have to continue to find ways to keep our existing cargoes and new growth opportunities-it’s not an easy task. We have evolving infrastructure needs, and cargo diversification opportunities need to be discussed,” he noted.
Bruce Hodgson, Director of Market Development, St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corp., said that HWY H2O started in 2004 as an ad campaign “and received such positive feedback as a brand that we thought we could really market the whole system.
Eighteen port partners came on board at the time. We’re now up to 47 members. We’ve grown in numbers and we continue to grow our members. Logistics is a team sport,” he said.
The Great Lakes St, Lawrence System serves a region that accounts for 55% of North America’s manufacturing, Bowles added.
“We had a tough start last year because of the ice cover. Grain was the stellar performer. Given the problems the railways have had the worth of the Seaway to grain movements in Canada was well shown. It looks like this will continue into next year. We’re getting a reasonable crop this year as far as we’re aware,” he said.
Iron ore is an area of concern as numbers and prices have been going down, “and that’s a big piece of our business. We’ve had fewer shipments from the lower Lakes up toward the Great Lakes. Coal is another area of some concern. Domestic coal consumption is on a decline generally, steel plants are reducing their coking capacity. Exports of coal have been good but prices have been low on the export markets. Those are the challenges,” Bowles said.
Salt and liquid bulk are strong performers on the Seaway as well this year.
“We’ve gained 2 million tonnes of new business each year for the last ten years. We need to continue to diversify our cargo base in the system-we’re very reliant on bulk cargo,” Bowles said.
The Seaway is marketing itself as a one stop shopping location.
“A lot of people don’t know how to properly access the Seaway. We’re trying to use our IT facilities to come up with a better way to make our system known. That’s an area we’re pushing and having some success with. We are there to supplement but not replace the marketing efforts of our members,” Bowles added.
Betty Sutton, Administrator, with the Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation, thanked the organizing committee and conference sponsors, speakers and moderators.
With reference to the conference theme, Sutton said “Ours at Hwy H2O is a foundation of relationships and partnerships enabling us to grow and prosper because of our collective efforts. There’s a half century partnership and collaboration between the US and Canadian seaway systems.We are encouraged by the new positive developments leading us to future growth-it’s a top priority for me to increase use of the Seaway,” she said.
Sutton said that with new ships being built for the system, technological innovations modernizing the waterway, combined with the environmental advantages of shipping, “We have to be ready to capitalize on these advancements. Adapting to other markets is critical.”
The Seaway’s new business incentives have been active in providing us some good Results, Hodgson said.
“We’ve had our first application for some volume incentives. We expect additional activity around volume incentives and we are working on our gateway incentive-getting feedback on rules and regulations at this time. We have the second draft prepared and we’ll be back out to see members over the next couple of weeks, and then we go through a filing process with Transport Canada after that,” said Hodgson, adding that he hopes the gateway incentive will launch by next season.
HWY H2O has established alliances with the Seaports of Niedersachsen in Germany, the Port of Shanghai in China, the Ligurian Ports in Italy and also has an MOU with Port of Amsterdam.
While the Seaway postponed its 2014 trade mission because of budget constraints it will reinstate the event in 2015 on May 18-21 in combination with Breakbulk Antwerp, Hodgson said.