The Association of Canadian Port Authorities held its first in person Annual Conference in two years this summer with a program focused on what the future might bring and how to prepare for it.

Sponsored by Hamilton-Oshawa Port Authority and Port of Windsor, it attracted more than 200 industry leaders to the downtown Toronto venue. It was also the first annual meeting for Daniel-Robert Gooch, ACPA’s new President and CEO, who was “tremendously pleased to see how well it all came together.” Next year’s Annual Conference with be held in Trois-Rivieres in September. “Stay tuned for another great event!”

One top-of-mind topic is cutting greenhouse gas emissions produced by the transport sector. Nathalie Morin, Transport Canada’s Executive Director of Decarbonization, said the federal government is aiming for reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 40 to 45 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030 and to achieve a net-zero economy by 2050. Canada and the U.S. have agreed to accelerate policy actions to help their transportation sectors contribute to the reduction, she said. That includes the establishment of green shipping corridors: zero-emission maritime routes between two or more ports.

Canada also wants to strengthen global efforts to achieve zero emissions from international shipping by 2050, including through actions by IMO, to achieve reduced carbon intensity by at least 40 per cent by 2030 moving towards 70 per cent by 2050.

Transport Canada and the U.S. Department of Transportation have jointly called for the development of green transport infrastructure along the border, including in the management of the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Seaway for maritime navigation, Morin said. They also want to work to advance cleaner, sustainable and renewable fuels for shipping and work with IMO to implement the ban on the use and carriage of heavy fuel oil in the Arctic.

John Schmidt, Program Manager for the Great Lakes St Lawrence Governor & Premiers, said the organization wants to see the development of a blue economy in the region. That would be a key component of its Working Great Lakes program to improve shipping, cruising, investment in ports and freshwater fisheries.

Canadian and American vessels account for most of the current carbon emissions through the Seaway and the Lakes, which reached 1.2 million tonnes in 2019. Introduction of electric shore power would help reduce that amount. The Great Lakes St Lawrence Circuit already provides electric shore power in 16 ports from Duluth- Superior to Quebec City, he said.

The meeting also heard other interesting presentations that could also help cut GHG emissions in the region. Christopher Morgan, CEO and Founder of Hoverlink Ontario Inc., said the introduction of a hovercraft passenger service between Niagara and Toronto could reduce a lengthy drive to a 30-minute trip across Lake Ontario.

It could lead to the expanded use of hovercraft carrying 150 to 180 passengers throughout the Great Lakes, he said. Work to make the craft quieter while they travel close to shore is underway. The craft create no wake or wash, can be used in environmentally sensitive areas and be powered by green technology that will produce low carbon emissions. Hoverlink is working to address misinformation and establish awareness of the use of hovercraft, which could leaded to behavioral changes in the automobile culture of North America.

Industrial drones could play a big role in improving the efficiency of port operations, said Matthias Gronstedt of HHLA Sky of Hamburg, Germany. The industrial drones are finding increased use in European ports to do safety inspections of ship and cargo handling facilities and equipment. They can be used to transport documents, keys, tools and spare parts throughout a port as well as provide security patrols and inspections, SAVING TIME AND LOWERING OPERATING COSTS.

HHLA operates several different types of drones, which it describes as the Swiss Knife of the 21st Century, he said. More than 100 drones, performing different functions can be operated from an Integrated Control Center. Trained employees oversee critical tasks while other roles can be handled through automated processes and procedures.

Another new technology presented to the meeting is Fluid Intelligence, a joint venture between Hamilton Oshawa Port Authority and McMaster University Institute for Transportation and Logistics. It is working on a project to improve supply chains in Southern Ontario through smarter and more integrated solutions in transportation and supply chain functions as well as improving decision-making with more data, said Mark Ferguson, the Institute’s Director. It is working with qualitative data from a wide variety of companies including CN, McKeil Marine, Algoma Central, FedNav, Desgagnes and CSL. It is also assessing cross-border short sea shipping opportunities.

Amazon Web Services presented on how digital transformation can work for logistics service providers as well as railways, shipping lines and trucking operations. The data approach can produce more accurate delivery, an ability to cope with demand or supply extremes, improve operation efficiency and delivery speed, figure out what happened in a service breakdown and acknowledgement of deliveries made. It can also help the sector cope with government mandates and labour shortages, Ferguson said.