Research “ping” points bridge-crossing delays

By Keith Norbury

Most of the goods traded between Canada and the U.S., still one of the world’s leading trading partnerships, crosses the border in trucks. And most of those trucks pass over three bridges straddling two rivers connecting the Great Lakes of Huron, Erie, and Ontario. Until recently, however, little was known about long it takes trucks to cross the border. That all changed recently when researchers at the University of Windsor’s Traffic Lab obtained GPS data from nearly 400,000 border crossings by about 60,000 trucks owned by 750 companies. The researchers crunched the data, millions of GPS “pings” in total, to reveal details about how long they waited at the border at different times of the day and year as well as their directions of travel. (more…)

Canada stuck in middle of elephantine clash of civilizations

Canada stuck in middle of elephantine clash of civilizations

By Keith Norbury

When two elephants fight, it’s the grass that suffers. Jia Wang, Deputy Director of the China Institute at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, invokes that African proverb to describes Canada’s position in a tariff turf war between the world’s economic elephants — China and the U.S. “In a way, Canada is like that grass,” said Ms. Wang, who was born and raised in China but has been a Canadian resident for 16 years. “It’s caught in between these big global economic superpowers and if for some reason the trade situation worsens, I think on balance it’s not going to be good for Canada.” (more…)

Extending the Welland Canal season would generate more marine traffic, shippers say

Extending the Welland Canal season would generate more marine traffic, shippers say

By Alex Binkley

Keeping the Welland Canal open until mid-January would allow shipping lines to generate more business and ease highway congestion in southwestern Ontario, says Gregg Ruhl, the new President and CEO of Algoma Central. “If the Welland Canal were to remain open just a few more weeks, there would be hundreds and hundreds fewer trucks on the road,” he says. “The longer season should at least match the January 15 closing of the Soo Locks.”

Ruhl was Algoma’s COO when he proposed the longer shipping season to the Commons Transport Committee last fall as it held hearings across the country on a Canadian Transportation and Logistics Strategy. The committee released an interim report in late February that included a recommendation that Transport Canada work with The St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corp. (SLSMC) and its users “to explore ways to increase year-round use of the St. Lawrence Seaway to transport goods within central Canada.” The review “should consider such issues as icebreaking capabilities, piloting fees, handling fees at terminals and docking fees,” the MPs agreed. While the government has until mid-spring to respond to that recommendation, Bruce Hodgson, SLSMC’s Director of Marketing, said the issue is being discussed with domestic and international ship operators and shippers. “We’ve looked at the market and the indications are that a longer Welland season would generate additional business. We’ll work through the process of fully considering the idea.” One possibility would be keeping it open for a few more days in late December to see what happens, he said. (more…)

Pilotage costs and reforms remain sore points for Great Lakes transportation

By Alex Binkley

It doesn’t take long for an interview about shipping on the Great Lakes Seaway system to turn to the cost of marine pilotage. Few address the topic as bluntly as Bart Peters of Amsterdam-based Spliethoff Group. “Pilots in the U.S. basically have the freedom to make decisions about their own salary. They are running a government-sanctioned monopoly, there is no restriction on continuously increasing their costs, so there is no incentive whatsoever to ever bring costs down. Also, no one is ever responsible if things go wrong.” Unless the United States and Canada get serious about pilotage costs, “the Great Lakes trade will not develop any further,” he said. (more…)

Seaway’s 60th anniversary has deep roots

Seaway’s 60th anniversary has deep roots

By Alex Binkley

While the Seaway marks its 60th anniversary this year, the idea for a deep draft waterway between the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence River has deep historical roots. The Seaway was officially opened on June 26, 1959, by Queen Elizabeth, Prime Minister John Diefenbaker and President Dwight Eisenhower.

The vision of a seaway can be traced back to 1895 when the joint U.S.-Canadian Deep Waterways Commission was formed to study the feasibility of building such a waterway. Historical accounts say that was followed by an International Joint Commission study in 1909, but no action was taken. By 1900, a complete network of shallow draft canals allowed uninterrupted navigation from Lake Superior to Montreal. The first real step in creating the modern Seaway came in 1932 with the completion of the fourth Welland Canal. (more…)

New Nanaimo Vehicle Processing Centre ready for first shipment

By Keith Norbury

A new facility for handling imports of European vehicles is the latest addition to services at the Port of Nanaimo on Vancouver Island. The B.C. Vehicle Processing Centre will receive its first shipment of 400 automobiles in early March, said Ian Marr, President and CEO of Nanaimo Port Authority. That is when the Tranquil Ace, an MOL pure car and truck carrier, or PCTC, will dock at the port’s Assembly Wharf near the city’s downtown. The ship is scheduled to arrive at Nanaimo on March 7. Renovations to the 60,000 square foot building that will house the vehicle processing centre were 90 per cent completed by January. “But there’s always the odd little thing you can do around it to make it just a little nicer,” Mr. Marr said.

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