By Alex Binkley

There are some long-standing issues affecting transportation on the Great Lakes that the federal government should be pushing the Biden administration to resolve, says Bruce Burrows, President and CEO of Chamber of Marine Commerce (CMC). Doing so would “build on marine transportation’s significant public interest benefits, and at the same time create jobs, boost our trade potential and protect the environment,” Burrows says.

There are some long-standing matters like Ballast Water Manaement Regulations and pilotage reform as well as some environment issues such as safe high-water management in the Great Lakes, greenhouse gas emission reductions and better Coast Guard icebreaking.

Burrows said the ballast water management regulations in both Canada and the U.S. are likely to be finalized in 2021 after years of uncertainty. “It will be critical that Canada and the U.S. work together on an aligned and pragmatic approach for their domestic fleets.” A level-playing field approach is being sought that ensures that Canada and the U.S. regulate ballast water in a similar fashion among both fleets, with a timeline that is feasible, achievable and equal, he said. Both the U.S. Coast Guard and the Environmental Protection Agency are involved in developing the American rules while Transport Canada is working on a Canadian version. Canada joined a 2017 international ballast water agreement while the U.S. didn’t. However, the U.S. generally follows its rules. Ballast rules on the Great Lakes became even more complicated when individual states began making rules.

The two countries need harmonized and practical ballast water regulation enforcement “that will contribute to the competitiveness of the maritime transportation system with fairness for all users,” Burrows said. “Our main objective, however, is to ensure that no new invasive species enter the Seaway so we continue with our ballast water inspection program.”

As part of the ongoing review of pilotage in Canada, CMC wants Ottawa to develop new regulations that will improve the efficiency of shipping operations while maintaining the current high standards of safety. The Chamber has noted “that the legislated monopoly under which pilotage services are provided has contributed to the system’s inability to rein in costs or ensure adequate service levels in all areas. We also believe that the time is ripe to modernize pilotage in this country by addressing governance issues, while also introducing new technologies and innovation throughout the system.” The steadily rising costs of U.S. Great Lakes pilotage is another long-standing issue with shippers and shipping lines.

With both the Trudeau government and the Biden administration committed to tackling greenhouse gas emissions, CMC is calling for them “to recognize that ships are the most fuel-efficient and carbon-friendly way to move goods and an important part of the solution to address climate change.

“As the shipping industry, which contributes less than one per cent of all GHG emissions in Canada, works hard to further reduce its carbon footprint, CMC will advocate for regulatory, policy and program measures that encourage increased use of inland shipping, incentivize technology development and the expansion of alternative fuels; and reflect the operational realities of our members.”

Ports and marine facilities on both sides of the Great Lakes should be in line for infrastructure funding to enhance their ability to handle more cargo but also improve their “climate change resiliency against persistent high waters throughout the Great Lakes.” As part of that initiative, CMC says it “will continue to seek better water management solutions from the International Joint Commission that ensure safe navigation and help protect shoreline communities.”

The Great Lakes also needs more Canadian and American ice breakers while the St. Lawrence River requires more Canadian icebreaking capacity, CMC said.