By David Cree
“Port Windsor had an excellent year in 2012” stated David Cree, President and CEO of Windsor Port Authority (WPA). “Total cargo throughput increased by 7.5 per cent to reach 5,455,655 tonnes and approached the record levels established in 2006. In addition, several major projects were announced, started and/or completed during the year.”
The Port has always been known for its expertise in moving bulk products, with construction aggregates and salt traditionally being the two major cargoes handled in terms of total volume. This was again the case in 2012 with construction aggregates surging by almost 50 per cent to reach 2.35 million tonnes and salt shipments declining slightly to just over 2 million tonnes. Of the other major cargoes handled within the port, grain shipments through the ADM Grain Terminal were slightly above their ten-‐year average at 493,000 tonnes. Morterm Ltd. is the port’s only general cargo terminal and in recent years has handled a significant volume of wind turbine parts destined for local “wind farms”. With the completion of most of these projects, volumes declined in 2012; however, the strengthening of the local economy has generated increased demand for various types of steel, and shipments of these products increased by over 20 per cent.
One of the major strategic advantages of Port Windsor is its location on the busiest border crossing between Canada and the United States with an astonishing $120 billion in goods transiting this gateway annually. This represents more than 25 per cent of the trade between the two countries. In order to ensure this critical international trade can continue to grow without border issues becoming an impediment, governments in both Canada and the Unites States have come together to construct the New International Trade Crossing. This project will include a new six-‐lane bridge across the Detroit River, associated border inspection plazas and direct connections to the highway systems in Ontario and Michigan. The new bridge and connecting highways will spur both short and long-‐term economic activity in Windsor and throughout Southern Ontario and greatly improve transportation efficiency between Ontario, Quebec, Eastern Canada and the United States. The project is currently on schedule to be completed by 2019-‐2020.
A major milestone in the project was achieved in August 2011 when Ontario began construction of the $1.4 billion Rt. Hon. Herb Gray Parkway, which will extend Highway 401 through Windsor to the new international bridge. WPA is playing a critical role in this project with the majority of the stone and construction aggregates required being shipped through the Lafarge Canada Inc. Terminal, one of WPA’s tenants. As previously noted, this led to a year-‐over-‐year increase of almost 50 per cent in total construction aggregates handled through the port in 2012. With construction of the new Parkway scheduled to continue into 2014, it is projected that volumes of construction aggregates will remain at near record levels for the 2013 and 2014 shipping seasons. In order to handle this huge increase in volume, Lafarge and WPA entered into an agreement in 2012 to develop and expand the current terminal site onto 14 acres of abutting WPA lands. This work was substantially completed in early 2012 and more than doubled the size of the terminal to almost thirty acres. In addition, extensive shore wall work and fish habitat enhancements are underway with a portion completed in 2012 and the remainder to be completed in the fall of 2013. This enlarged facility will ensure that construction aggregates required for the Parkway and the new international bridge can be sourced as efficiently and economically as possible.
Because of Windsor’s location on a major international gateway, efficient cross-‐border infrastructure is critical to the economic vitality of the region. To that end, WPA entered into a partnership agreement in 2010 with CP Rail and Borealis Infrastructure (a Division of the Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System-‐OMERS) to construct a new state-‐of-‐the-‐art railway tunnel between Windsor and Detroit. The $400-‐million project, known as the Continental Rail Gateway, will be large enough to accommodate the latest generation of double-‐stacked intermodal shipping containers and auto-‐max rail cars, which are unable to utilize the existing tunnel. The project will produce very significant public benefits in Canada – almost $1.6 billion in reduced wear and tear on highway infrastructure, reductions in greenhouse gases and increased economic competitiveness during the first 50 years of operations. In addition, the project will create more than 1,700 direct and indirect jobs during construction. And finally, the potential “induced benefits”, that is the effects where new businesses invest to take
advantage of new transportation infrastructure, were identified. These benefits have the potential to be very significant – $660 million to $1 billion in new commercial/industrial investment, supporting 1,000 – 1,400 new full-‐time jobs in the Windsor – Detroit area. The project has received widespread support from governments and industry on both sides of the border, including the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, the Ontario Chamber of Commerce, the Automotive Parts Manufacturers’ Association, Windsor Essex Economic Development Corporation, the Michigan Chamber of Commerce and the Detroit Regional Chamber.
Port of Montreal is also a strong supporter of the project as a significant portion of its container traffic either originates from or is destined for the U.S. Midwest. A new double stack rail tunnel at Windsor – Detroit will assist Montreal in increasing its market share and remaining competitive well into the future. It is currently projected that the environmental review of the project should be completed and all necessary permits obtained by the end of 2013, and that the project could be completed as early as 2017. With completion of the new international bridge and double stack rail tunnel both scheduled for later this decade, Windsor is well position to become a major multi-‐modal hub serving Eastern Canada and the U.S. Midwest.
In 2011 WPA was able to secure a $10 million Build Canada Infrastructure Grant to enlarge the existing McAsphalt Industries – Sterling Fuels facility and develop a new construction aggregates terminal for Miller Paving (a sister company of McAsphalt) on lands leased from WPA. The project was substantially completed in 2012 and includes an addition to the existing dock to allow two vessels to be handled simultaneously; the construction of a state-‐of-‐the-‐art rotary conveyor system which allows Miller Paving to unload 4,000 tonnes of construction aggregates per hour; and the addition of new liquid asphalt tank capacity and a railroad spur at the Sterling facility which will further enhance its reputation as one of the largest and most efficient petroleum terminals in the Great Lakes. With these upgrades, Miller and McAsphalt will add significantly to the Port’s ability to meet the needs for construction related products well into the foreseeable future.
Another significant project got underway in September 2012, when the Honourable Peter McKay, Minister of National Defence, announced construction of the new HMCS Hunter Naval Reserve Facility on waterfront property owned by the Port Authority. The 60,000-‐square-‐foot facility will cost approximately $36 million, will accommodate 250 personnel and includes offices, mess areas, boat sheds and training facilities. Shortly after the Minister’s announcement, the Port Authority announced that it had purchased and was in the process of renovating a nearby building which will eventually house its corporate head offices. Both of these projects are situated in the heart of Old Sandwich Towne, the City’s oldest and most historic district. These significant commitments by the Federal government and WPA will greatly assist in the renaissance of this important neighbourhood.
Port Windsor has always had a well-‐earned reputation for being one of the most competitive ports on the Great Lakes. This is due in large part to its efficient, aggressive and versatile port operators, but it is also due to the fact that the port has always had amongst the lowest port fees of any of the Port Authorities in Canada. This was clearly substantiated in a recent report published in Canadian Sailings Magazine, which compared the operations of the eighteen Canada Port Authorities. Two very significant highlights for the Windsor Port Authority were: 1. Windsor ranked second-‐lowest in terms of “Port Authority costs per tonne of cargo”, and 2. Windsor ranked lowest in terms of “Port Authority fees charged per tonne of cargo”.
Mr. Cree noted “We are very proud of the fact that we have been able to maintain such a low fee structure while still fulfilling all of our increased responsibilities under the Canada Marine Act. We believe that this has been a significant factor in our growth over the past decade and will continue to play an important role in the Port’s competitiveness in the years ahead”.
WPA’s Chairman, Charles S. Pingle concluded by stating “2012 was one of our best years on record. We look to the short-‐ and long-‐term future for the Port with both confidence and optimism”.