By Mark Cardwell

Despite fears of disturbances from demonstrating government workers, the 15th annual Marine Day went off without a hitch at Quebec’s National Assembly on October 27. “We were a bit worried,” Nicole Trépanier, General Manager of the St. Lawrence Economic Development Society (SODES) told Canadian Sailings.  “But nothing happened and we had another great opportunity to explain first-hand to provincial policy makers about how safe and efficient marine transportation really is.”

Organized jointly by SODES and St. Lawrence Shipoperators, the annual event featured 11 meetings between 45 industry officials and senior bureaucrats and politicians from all four provincial parties. The day-end cocktail in the National Assembly’s ornately-decorated restaurant also attracted more than 200 people – a record attendance for Marine Day, according to Trépanier. Both Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard and Quebec’s Deputy Minister of Transportation and implementation of the new maritime strategy, Jean d’Amour, gave allocutions at the cocktail.

Other notable attendees included Allister Patterson (President, Canada Steamship Lines) and Terrence Bowles (President and CEO of The St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation) from the marine industry, as well as 35 mayors from riverside communities across the province, including Quebec City’s Régis Labeaume.

In his speech, which followed a motion he read earlier in the day during a parliamentary session, extolling the importance of Marine Day, d’Amour highlighted the impact that Quebec’s recently unveiled maritime strategy will have on the continued economic and social development of the St. Lawrence as a strategic national and international waterway. “Thanks to the first maritime strategy in our history, we will soon be able to exploit our marine potential in an enlightened way, with respect for people and the environment,” said d’Amour. “(The strategy) will assure navigational safety by managing the risks associated with the transportation of dangerous goods and petroleum products. To that end, our government will put in place a centre of expertise in the Magdalen Islands that will specialize in the prevention, preparation and intervention in environmental emergencies.”

For his part, Couillard lauded Marine Day as an annual occasion to celebrate the importance of the marine industry for Quebec. “We are privileged to be able to count on the St. Lawrence River as a tool of sustainable economic and social development tool,” said the Premier. “We can also count on the expertise of the men and women in a sector that helps to develop our regions and enables Quebec to distinguish itself on the national and international scenes.”

Another Marine Day tradition was on the menu again this year: the sounding of fog horns every hour on the hour between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. by the captains and pilots of ships navigating on the St. Lawrence between Montreal and Les Escoumins. “It’s a salute to the population, but also a reminder that marine transportation is the most ecological and safest way to transport goods,” said Martin Fournier, General Manager of St. Lawrence Shipoperators.