A number of North America’s mining, manufacturing and agricultural companies have helped identify priorities to improve the competitiveness of Great Lakes shipping, which will become focus areas for the Chamber of Marine Commerce in the coming year. “Tough global economic conditions mean that our manufacturing, food, mining and construction sectors are under more pressure than ever to be competitive. We need governments to focus on creating world-class transportation networks that will help them succeed,” says Stephen Brooks, President of the Chamber of Marine Commerce.

The priorities include provision of appropriate icebreaking capacity, harmonization and reduction of regulations across borders, reductions of fees for government-mandated services, and adherence to science-based environmental regulations. As a top priority, the Chamber of Marine Commerce is advocating for the government to build or purchase additional icebreaking vessels dedicated to the Great Lakes-Seaway region and, at least in the short to medium term, to seriously investigate bolstering its resources by securing services from private sector suppliers.

Quotes from Chamber of Marine Commerce members include the following:

Jonathan Bamberger, President of Redpath Sugar: “During the past few years, it’s been evident that we lack sufficient ice-breaking resources to break out the system in the spring. As a company, we need to be as efficient as possible and we run our inventory on the assumption that the Seaway is going to open at the end of March. If it opens even a week or two late, we don’t have enough raw sugar for our refinery. We need reliable services to make sure the waterway is open.”

Francois Allard, K&S Windsor Salt’s Vice-President – Administration: “We use the Great Lakes-Seaway to ship 75 percent of our product from our Ojibway Mine in Windsor. It’s crucial to our company that the U.S. and Canadian Coast Guards have the equipment and resources to effectively manage the ice during harsh winters.”

Rick Ruzzin, Sr. Director of Logistics for Compass Minerals: “Sustainable marine freight is critical to our way of life. We need continued collaboration between industry and government on the costs of mandated services. We saw great collaboration when vessel carriers, the Chamber of Marine Commerce, and other industry trade associations worked together with government to remove a 25 per cent import duty on foreign-built vessels. When considering increases for pilotage and user fees, we need to be smart and draw from lessons learned through past successes. To raise marine costs such that companies look to rail or truck, instead of vessel freight, would compromise our ability to compete against imports and negatively impact local business.”

Carsten Bredin, Vice-President of Grain Merchandising for Richardson International: “If we can’t access transportation in the Eastern Corridor because ships can’t comply with the regulations in certain jurisdictions or it is not economically feasible to do so, that’s a major roadblock. Canada needs this corridor to export grain to key trade markets.”

Ward Weisensel, SVP of Trading, Procurement and Risk with G3 Canada Ltd.: “We need harmonized ballast water regulations for the U.S. and Canadian Great Lakes, regulations that are based on sound science and are cost-effective. Otherwise, if ballast water regulations unreasonably increase costs, it will hurt the Seaway and all of the industry that depends on it. If the Seaway gets even $2/per tonne more expensive, significant volumes of Prairie grain could move west or south instead. It doesn’t seem like very much, but those are the margins in the grain trade.”