For close to 100 years, the Port of Hamilton grew along with the city’s two great steel companies to become Canada’s foremost steel port. As southern Ontario’s industrial economy evolves, the Hamilton Port Authority (HPA) has led a diversification strategy to respond to change, and position itself as a gateway to new markets.

Agri-food as a portion of the Port’s total cargo has nearly doubled in the past six years, from 9.8 per cent in 2009 to 19 per cent in 2014. Cargo volumes of soybeans, grain and fertilizer all increased year-over-year in 2014.

The Port of Hamilton has been a major driver of this growth, attracting more than $50 million in agri-food-related capital investment. The port is home to companies that comprise a vital agricultural sector ‘food chain’, including:

• Two of Canada’s leading grain handlers: Parrish & Heimbecker and Richardson International;

• Bunge Canada, operating one of Ontario’s largest oilseed crush facilities;

• Agrico and Sylvite, specializing in the handling of fertilizers;

• Toronto Tank Lines, Vopak Terminals and Westway Terminals, providing storage and transloading of biodiesel, seed oil and other liquid commodities; and

• Biox Biodiesel, processing agricultural material into green fuel.

Ontario food exports are valued at close to $10 billion annually, and the Port of Hamilton has emerged as critical infrastructure within this system, as one of Ontario’s key grain export gateways.

“The Port’s export capacity has grown alongside steadily rising global demand for Ontario grain,” said HPA President & CEO Bruce Wood.

In 2014, one out of every five vessels visiting the Port of Hamilton was making an overseas voyage. The Port handled more than 2 million MT of overseas cargo last year, the greatest volume in a decade. Overseas exports of Ontario grain, and imports of fertilizer, accounted for a significant portion of this global trade. The 2015 season looks like another strong one for Ontario grain producers looking to export their product. “We had a lineup of vessels ready to load as soon as the Seaway opened this season,” recalls HPA’s Bruce Wood.

“The Port of Hamilton has always enjoyed a strategic location that makes it attractive to Ontario exporters,” said Bruce Wood. “But the rapid growth in agricultural tonnage has resulted directly from two factors: new and expanded terminal capacity; and more robust multimodal connections.”

Agri-food sector investments since 2009 are valued at more than $50 million, and have added substantially to the Port’s storage and handling capacity:

• Parrish & Heimbecker: In 2011, erected two new grain storage domes, providing 30,000MT of storage capacity each;

• Richardson International: $6 million expansion of handling capacity;

• Sylvite: New, $5 million fertilizer storage tanks;

• Agrico: $2.5 million invested, doubling liquid bulk storage capacity to 40,000MT;

• Bunge: Ongoing investments at Bunge’s market-leading oilseed crush facility.

When it comes to multimodal connectivity, HPA has been making strategic investments designed to ensure shippers have access to the right mode at the right time. In particular, HPA is seeking to encourage more cargo to transit the port by rail, explained Wood. “Better truck, rail and marine connections will help us to be the critical link between Ontario food producers and a global market with a big appetite for Ontario product.”