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Final surge at ports before St. Lawrence Seaway season closes Construction, manufacturing star performers


OTTAWA, Ont.–The number of vessels currently in the Great Lakes-Seaway system exceeds the five-year average as ships deliver much-needed supplies and make a final push to export grain from Thunder Bay and other Ontario ports before the St. Lawrence Seaway closes December 30.

“The 2015 shipping season has mirrored North American and global economic trends,” said Terence Bowles, President and CEO of The St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation.

“Domestic and cross-border transport of cement, stone, gypsum, aluminum and machinery continues full throttle in response to heightened construction activity and a strong automotive sector. While steep declines in global consumption and pricing have largely curtailed coal and iron ore exports, we are encouraged by the recent surge in grain exports, which once again demonstrates the vital role played by the Seaway in supporting global trading activity.”

New business has helped to offset shortfalls with figures from April 2 to November 30 showing that the St. Lawrence Seaway attracted 1.7 million metric tons of cargo either coming from new origins or heading to new destinations, said a Chamber of Marine Commerce release.

“We are also seeing the rewards of new investment in Canadian ports and new vessels,” said Stephen Brooks, President of the Chamber of Marine Commerce. “During the past two weeks, that trend has continued with Algoma Central Corporation ordering two more vessels and Parrish & Heimbecker revealing a $40 million investment in a flour mill at the Port of Hamilton.”

“New terminal announcements in the agri-food sector are helping to reinforce the Port of Hamilton’s role as a grain hub, with increased grain handling capacity,” said Bruce Wood, President & CEO for Hamilton Port Authority.

“Construction-related materials like sand and stone have also been very strong this year, owing to continued population and infrastructure growth in Canada’s most populous region. Heading into the last weeks of the season, these commodities are trending 16 per cent higher than the previous year.”

After its own major infrastructure renewal program, Eastern Ontario’s Port of Johnstown has had a record performance this season with ships transporting 784,000 metric tons for the season up to November 30.

“This has been a stellar year,” says Robert Dalley, General Manager of the Port of Johnstown. “Overall cargo tonnage so far is up 20 per cent. We’ve seen increases in every category from road salt and aggregates to liquid bulk and breakbulk. Grain transported by ship jumped by nearly 50 per cent, due to U.S. corn coming in for local ethanol production. Project cargo, 26 containers of parts for a Napanee generating station, also arrived for the first time on our brand new 19-acre River Front dock. We also completed the $8.9 million restoration of our Harbour Front dock and this extra capacity will hopefully help us with continued growth next season.”

Port of Oshawa investment has also attracted new companies and convinced others to grow. A wholesale distributor of structural steel products has opened a new warehousing operation at the port, creating 30 new jobs. Construction was recently completed on a new 45,000-foot transit shed, which is in close proximity to the port’s new $4.1 million rail spur. “We’re very proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish over the past year,” says Donna Taylor, President and CEO of the Oshawa Port Authority.

Elsewhere, the Port of Toronto continued to see strong levels of imports including salt, sugar and aggregate. Sarnia Harbour has also performed well this season and is now preparing for winter layup.

“Grain volumes at the Cargill dock are between 700,000 – 750,000 metric tons, and we have had two over-sized machinery shipments that illustrate the potential for the Sarnia Harbour to become the terminus of a heavy haul corridor for the region’s manufacturing and petrochemical industries. We have 10 ships booked for winter layup and maintenance and that will help employ up to 300 people over the winter,” said Peter Hungerford, Director of Economic Development & Corp. Planning at the City of Sarnia.

Across the board, total year-to-date (April 2 through November 30) cargo on the Seaway was 31.5 million metric tons, down 10.4 per cent.