By David Cree, President and CEO, Windsor Port Authority

After banner years in both 2012 and 2013, Port of Windsor returned to more traditional cargo levels in 2014, with total throughput declining to 5.4 million tonnes. While this was a drop of just under 10 per cent from the record season of 2013, total tonnage for the year was still at the five year average for the port and slightly above the ten year average. At this early stage in 2015, cargo throughput is showing very positive signs with total volumes being up by 7.6 per cent at the end of May.

Stone and construction aggregates drove the record setting pace in 2012 and 2013 with volumes up 50 per cent and 25 per cent respectively in those two years. These impressive increases resulted from construction of the new RT Hon. Herb Grey Parkway, an 11 km stretch of highway which will link Highway 401 to the new Gordie Howe International Bridge between Windsor and Detroit. The $1.4 billion parkway required over 2 million tonnes of stone and construction aggregates, most of which was moved through the port. With the near completion of that project in 2014, volumes dropped off significantly; however, with construction of the bridge itself and the 100 acre custom plaza scheduled to commence later this year, port officials are expecting volumes of stone and construction aggregates to rebound significantly and return to near record levels in 2016 and 2017. This is very welcome news for the port’s six stone Terminals: Southwestern Sales East and West, Miller Paving, Lafarge Canada, Coco Paving and Canada Building Materials.

The other major commodity handled in the port is salt which in mined and shipped through the K&S Windsor Salt Mine. With the very severe winter of 2013-2014, total salt cargoes surged by over 20 per cent and with another harsh winter behind us, shipments are expected to be at similar levels in 2015.

The Sterling Fuels dock, which is owned by the Port Authority and operated by McAsphalt Industries, has undergone significant expansions and up-grades in recent years. The results of these improvements were seen in 2013 and 2014 with petroleum products increasing by 13.6 and 25.6 per cent respectively. At this early stage of the season, prospects for 2015 are positive with total petroleum volumes up by 20 per cent at the end of May.

General cargo, which is handled through Morterm Terminal, has historically consisted primarily of domestic and imported steel. These cargoes have been augmented in recent years by imported windmill parts, and sugar destined for local food processing industries. Strong volumes of imported steel drove an impressive gain of over 60 per cent in this category last season, and Morterm is looking to build on this performance in 2015.

ADM – Agri Industries is one of the world’s largest grain traders and has operated the Windsor Grain Terminal for over 25 years. After impressive growth of over 26 per cent in 2013, ADM was able to solidify and build on that success with a further increase of 24 per cent in total grain shipments in 2014. With on-going improvements at its facility and new trade agreements promising the potential for expanded markets, the record setting years of 2013 and 2014 should became the “new normal” for ADM.

On May 2nd of this year, Port Authority officials were very pleased and gratified to attend the commissioning of HMCS Hunter, a new 40,000 square foot naval reserve facility constructed on Port Authority property. The Port Authority had been working on this project for over ten years and the new facility is both a welcome addition to the waterfront and an important catalyst in the on-going renaissance of the City’s oldest historic district, Olde Sandwich Towne.

The Port Authority is continuing its commitment to responsible environmental stewardship of the Detroit River and to the development of significant new fish habitat and spawning grounds. In recent years, the Port Authority and its tenants, Sterling Fuels/Miller Paving and Lafarge Canada, have constructed major new spawning areas – the Lafarge project being one of the largest ever undertaken in the area. In 2015, the Port Authority will continue this initiative in partnership with numerous local partners by developing significant new fish habitat on water-lots next to the HMCS Hunter Facility.

Windsor Port Authority has always faced unique security challenges due to its location on the international boundary with the United States. In order to fulfil its mandate, the Port Authority has partnered for over thirty years with the Windsor Police Service to provide patrol vessels and manpower on the Detroit River. That capacity was significantly augmented in 2014 with the purchase of a new 27 foot SAFE-boat, christened Defender. This state-of-the-art vessel is considered to be the “gold standard” of law enforcement vessels in both Canada and the United States, and the partners are currently considering the purchase of a second SAFE-boat to be put into service in 2016.

In summary, aside from the anticipated decline in stone and construction aggregates, 2014 proved to be a very good year for the Port. We are off to a strong start in 2015, and the Port Authority is on-pace to continue its record of economic growth, environmental sustainability and community service.