by Alex Binkley, The Chamber of Marine Commerce (CMC) has urged politicians and government officials “to work in partnership with industry to ensure the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River transportation corridor remains a resilient supply chain and at the forefront of marine innovation to meet the ambitious goal of reaching net zero carbon emissions by 2050,” says Bruce Burrows, CMC President and CEO. Key items are actions on decarbonization of shipping, supply chain resiliency and system infrastructure along with the old chestnut of pilotage reform.

Reminding the federal, provincial and state governments that CMC represents shipowners, ports and shippers, Burrows said the sector has already taken major steps to reduce its carbon footprint and could accomplish even more. CMC proposes the creation of a multi-stakeholder initiative to show how marine shipping is already the most fuel-efficient and carbon-friendly way to move goods, and an important part of the solution to address climate change. Or, as Allister Patterson, Executive Vice-President and Chief Commercial Officer of Canada Steamship Lines, told a recent CMC webinar, government environmental policy should be to get cargo to the water as fast as possible. Moving it as much as possible by ship rather than road or rail will mean considerably lower carbon emissions. Burrows said Canadian marine navigation including cargo, passengers, and fishing creates less than one per cent of all the country’s GHG emissions. Through fleet renewal and alternative fuels, shipowners decreased carbon emissions by 19 per cent between 2008 and 2017.

However, ships and ports will require support and investment to expand the use of transition fuels, such as LNG and biofuels, as well as develop new propulsion technologies to meet GHG-reduction targets of net zero carbon emissions by 2050. To guide this process, CMC wants regulations for reducing carbon emissions from domestic ships that account for our short sea shipping trading patterns and unique Canadian ship designs, he said.

CMC also wants the marine sector to have representation on the International Lake Ontario-St. Lawrence River Board to deal with any future plans to lower Great Lakes water levels by increased outflows through the Moses-Saunders dam. In 2020, the St. Lawrence Seaway navigation season through the Montreal-Lake Ontario section was delayed by 12 days to accommodate increased outflows of water through the dam, which made navigation unsafe. While decisions were being made by the Board to prevent potential flooding around Lake Ontario, they “had little effect on lake levels but impacted more than $80 million worth of shipping business.” The industry wants people on the Board who understand navigation and that the outflow method only lowers water level by a few centimetres.

Pilotage reform is a long-term goal of Great Lakes ship owners struggling with the cost of additional services and rules. Allowing certified ship captains to be pilots, as is done in Canada, and enabling the use of automated navigation systems should be considered. “With global inflation and the exponential costs of installing ballast water treatment systems over the coming years, it will be more important than ever to ensure that Canadian government-mandated pilotage services take into account today’s technology, make more effective use of risk assessments and improve efficiency and cost effectiveness.”