Appetite for investment in Hamilton’s growing food cluster

Appetite for investment in Hamilton’s growing food cluster

In the space of a few short years, the Port of Hamilton has emerged as southern Ontario’s primary export gateway for Ontario-grown grain, and the nucleus of an expanding food cluster within the region.

In 2017, the Port of Hamilton handled its highest-ever total of agricultural products. Close to 2.3 million metric tonnes (MT) of commodities such as Ontario-grown corn, wheat and soybeans, as well as canola, sugar, potash and other fertilizers were handled through the port. Agricultural cargoes now make up 23 per cent of the port’s total, up from 12.5 per cent in 2010. (more…)

Cruise ship season 2017

Cruise ship season 2017

By Mark Cardwell

The port of Sept-Îles is quickly becoming a popular international cruise ship destination in Eastern Canada. Eight years after its inaugural cruise season, when it welcomed three ships with 5,000 passengers, the port was visited eight times by five different ships carrying a total of 8,000 passengers during the 2017 sailing season.

The last and most notable visit was an unexpected stopover by the Queen Mary 2. The 350-metre-long ship was scheduled to make its inaugural visit to Sept-Îles on Sept. 28, 2018. However, the Cunard-owned transatlantic ocean liner made an unscheduled stop on October 2, and berthed there from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The 8-hour stop was booked just two weeks earlier to replace a visit to the port of Gaspé that Cunard cancelled over the speed limit that Canada imposed in a section of the Gulf of the St. Lawrence to protect endangered right whales.

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Seaway cargo up 10 per cent year to date

Year to date St. Lawrence Seaway cargo volumes to date are ahead of equivalent 2016 numbers by 10 per cent, as the shipping season enters its busiest final months. According to The St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation, total cargo tonnage from March 20 to October 31 reached 28.7 million metric tonnes – 2.5 million metric tonnes more compared to the same period in 2016.

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Ocean Inc.’s lifting barge – an innovation to help solve an age-old problem

The Government of Québec has agreed to provide $ 914,250 in financial assistance to Ocean Marine Works Inc. for the development of its lifting barge under the Marine Transportation Infrastructure Investment Support Program, as part of a total project cost of $1.8 million.

The lifting barge, designed and to be manufactured by Ocean’s team, will facilitate the loading and unloading of cargo by raising or lowering a platform on the barge to dock level, enabling vehicles to be driven on or off, without requiring the services of a crane. This solution complements existing means of loading and unloading, and will promote shipping on the St. Lawrence River.

Jacques Tanguay, Ocean’s CEO, commented that, “The ingenuity of our team has made it possible to create a new solution to an age-old problem that will complement and facilitate short sea shipping on the Saint Lawrence. This project fits perfectly with the objectives of the government of Quebec’s Maritime Strategy.”

Diversification efforts paying off for St. Lawrence Seaway? Cargo up 13 per cent

Are efforts to diversify and expand cargo routes contributing to a 13 per cent increase in year-to-date cargo shipments via the St. Lawrence Seaway? According to The St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation (SLSMC), total cargo tonnage from March 20 to August 31 reached 19.9 million tonnes – 2.3 million tonnes more compared to the same period in 2016. Year-to-date shipments of high-value general cargo totaled two million tonnes, up 40 per cent over the 1.4 million tonnes carried during the same period last year.

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Cruise industry feeling pinch from speed reduction in Gulf of St. Lawrence

Cruise industry feeling pinch from speed reduction in Gulf of St. Lawrence

By Mark Cardwell

René Trépanier is all for conservation efforts to help protect the critically-endangered North Atlantic right whale. But he thinks those measures should also be designed with the economic wellbeing of the communities and companies that rely on the same waterways in mind.

“We very much want to protect whales because the abundance of marine wildlife in our waters is a big part of the beauty and attraction of Canada,” said Trépanier, Executive Director of Cruise the St. Lawrence Association, a non-profit group devoted to the development of the cruise industry market across Eastern Canada and New England, on behalf of its nine Quebec port members and various tourism partners. “But we need to find a path between conservation and exploitation.” Trépanier said the economic impacts from the 10-knot speed limit that was imposed over a vast zone in the southern half of the Gulf of St. Lawrence in August underscores that need.

And marine industry stakeholders of all stripes are worried the fallout will continue in the coming years if the federal government doesn’t work with them to find answers and solutions. “It’s too late for this year,” said Trépanier.  “But we absolutely need information about what will happen in 2018 and 2019, because the cruise lines draw up their itineraries two years in advance.” 

His group and some two dozen others, including Canadian Port Authorities, the Shipping Federation of Canada, the Canadian Shipowners Association, Cruise Line International Association, the Green Alliance and even several ship captains with whale-avoidance experience, participate in weekly conference calls on Wednesday mornings with officials and scientists from several federal government ministries. The latter provide updates, information and data on the location and movement of right whales in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

The mandatory speed limit was introduced by Transport Canada on Aug. 11 following the deaths of 11 of the whales in a five-week period. The whales were part a large herd that moved north this year from their traditional summer feeding grounds in the Bay of Fundy. Those deaths – and two more since then – raised international concern and put pressure on Canada to protect the once-plentiful mammals, which now number less than 500 individuals worldwide. Ship strikes are not the only suspected cause of the whale deaths.  Fishing line entanglements and natural causes are also being investigated by TC and Department of Fisheries and Oceans.

However, the “temporary” speed reduction is being credited for helping to stem the unprecedented number of mortalities. The federal government says the limit will remain in force until the whales leave the gulf and migrate south in late October or early November.

Though a voluntary speed reduction was put in place in the Gulf of St. Lawrence in late June, when the whales were first spotted there, the mandatory limit caught the cruise ship industry by surprise. The change resulted in delays of up to seven hours for cruise ships transiting the zone. As a result, several cruise lines have cancelled 19 calls to Quebec ports as of Sept. 30. Hardest hit has been Gaspé with 14 cancellations, followed by Baie-Comeau with four and Saguenay with one. Charlottetown, which is nonetheless enjoying a record year for cruise ship visits, has had eight cancellations. Gaspé and Charlottetown are the two ports closest to the speed reduction zone. Gaspé also relies on tenders to ferry cruise ship passengers to and from shore.  That adds to the cost of port visits and makes arrival and departure times critical.

“The speed reduction was just too sudden,” said Trépanier.  “The cruise ship industry can’t turn on a dime.” He noted that cruises to turnaround destinations like Montreal and Quebec City have been mostly unaffected, as ships can skirt the zone to reach or leave those ports and are less constrained by arrival and departure times.

One port’s misery has also proven to be another’s gain. Sept-Iles, for example, received an unscheduled visit from the Queen Mary 2 in mid-September after the legendary Cunard Lines’ vessel cancelled a visit to Gaspé. And Gaspé got four unscheduled trips of its own.

Overall, however, Trépanier said this fall’s cruise season “has been a global loss for the St. Lawrence. There have been 22,000 fewer passenger visits” due to the cancellations.

According to recent industry data, cruise ship passengers to Quebec spend an estimated $140 per person per day in ports. “It’s not the end of the world for us, but no one is happy about cancellations,” said Les Parsons, CEO of the Charlottetown Harbour Authority. According to Parsons, Charlottetown has a record 84 cruise ships with 100,000 passengers scheduled in 2017. The previous record was 70,000 passengers at the island province’s main port. Parsons said the eight cancelled calls were all tendering. “That takes extra time and added cost,” he said.

It’s not just cruise ships however that have been affected by the speed reduction.

Container lines that operate scheduled routes between several ports have been forced to take various measures to make up for the 5- to 8-hour delays that result from sailing through the whale zone.

“Container vessels operate like a bus system with very exact time schedules,” said Sonia Simard, Director of Legislative and Environmental Affairs for the Montreal-based Shipping Federation of Canada.  “The longer transit adds to the time and overall fluidity of the logistics chain.” Like bulk carriers, which lose only 3-4 hours due to the speed restrictions in the zone which some 30-40 ships transit each day, Simard said container vessels can make up for lost time by going faster on open seas and by working overtime or weekends. “That adds to fuel costs and sailing times,” she said.  “But ship operators are used to dealing with unforeseen constraints like weather delays or mechanical issues.  “The key is for them to get that information beforehand so they can work it into their schedules.”

Simard also noted that the marine industry is both eager and accustomed to working within the confines of speed reductions in Canadian waters. In addition to voluntary reductions to protect killer whales near the entrance to the Port of Vancouver, beluga whales at the confluence of the Saguenay and St. Lawrence, and to prevent soil erosion between Sorel and Montreal, she said the industry has participated in two major conservation actions in recent years to help protect right whales in the Bay of Fundy. Those actions include changes in the width and location of the shipping lanes of the Traffic Separation Scheme (TSS) in 2003, and an IMO-sanctioned and recommended seasonal ‘Area to be Avoided’ (ATBA) for ships of 300 gross tonnage and upwards in the Roseway Basin in 2008. “We have shown in the past that we can take the measures necessary to ensure whales and ships can co-exist,” said Simard.

She added that other measures, including hull and propeller designs to reduce the impact of collision and noise, are also being taken by the marine industry at the international level. Simard said her group and other stakeholders are pushing the federal government to elaborate plans and actions in the Gulf of St. Lawrence for 2018 and beyond. Suggested measures include reducing the size of the speed-reduction zone, having observers on board ships like in Alaska, and the use of whale-detecting acoustic buoys like in the waters off Cape Cod. “No one knows if the whales will return to the Gulf of St. Lawrence again next year,” said Simard.  “But we need to be prepared in case they do, and we want to work with government to discuss and elaborate plans.”

In an email to Canadian Sailings, a TC spokesperson said the ministry is continuing to monitor the whales, “and will adjust or remove the zone when possible. Transport Canada and its other federal partners are committed to working with industry to find more permanent solutions, should the situation warrant.”