Having carried 3.25 million tonnes of grain from Thunder Bay during the 2014 shipping season, ships owned and operated by Algoma carried almost 40 per cent of all the grain shipped by the Port, and represented more than 50 per cent of domestic vessel calls at the port. Most of the grain Algoma carried was transported to ports along the St. Lawrence River for export. But it did not stop there: other Algoma vessels carried coal, potash and salt, as well as oil products. In fact, Algoma is the largest Canadian marine transportation company operating on the Great Lakes and Seaway system, and its vessels carry about 26 million tonnes of cargo annually in that market area.
Algoma is presently in the midst of a $300 million fleet renewal program, focused on the introduction of eight Equinox-class vessels. Six of these vessels will be owned and operated by Algoma, while two will be owned by CWB Inc. and operated by Algoma. The vessels, constructed at Nantong Mingde shipyard in China, will feature dramatic improvements in fuel efficiency of up to 45 per cent per cargo tonne, compared with Algoma’s current fleet average, resulting from the use of modern, fuel-efficient engines, significantly increased cargo capacity and an advanced hull form that minimizes resistance as the vessels move through the water. With compelling fuel-saving characteristics also come compelling environmental characteristics, enhanced by fully integrated exhaust gas scrubbers that will remove 97 per cent of all sulphur oxides from shipboard emissions. This is the first fleet application of scrubber technology on the Great Lakes.
Of the eight Equinox-class vessels ordered, four are gearless bulkers, which specialize in carrying grain and iron ore to facilities that have their own discharging equipment. The other four will be self-unloaders which can carry a variety of products and discharge them portside through the use of their conveyer and discharge boom systems.
The first four vessels (Equinox, Harvester, CWB Marquis and CWB Strongfield) are all gearless bulkers. The first three were delivered in 2013 and 2014, while CWB Strongfield is expected to be added to the fleet this spring. The first self-unloader is expected to arrive in the third quarter of this year and the second is expected by yearend. The remaining two self-unloaders are expected in 2016.
Wayne Smith, Algoma’s Senior Vice-President, Commercial, is eagerly looking forward to the 2015 shipping season, and expects Algoma to surpass the 2014 tonnages carried from Thunder Bay.