“Safety above all else.” By now, it is a familiar refrain to Hamilton Port Authority (HPA) staff, as part of an ongoing effort to ensure HPA is at the forefront of safety and security. HPA’s safety campaign is taking a close look at everything from everyday workplace hazards to large-scale emergency planning. “We began by undertaking a baseline study to assess our strengths, and to identify where we might have gaps,” said HPA President and CEO Bruce Wood. “We are looking at everything: facilities, equipment and procedures, as well as internal and external risks.”

HPA’s maintenance team recently received an award and national recognition from Plant Engineering and Maintenance Magazine for the team’s professional approach to maintenance and safety throughout the Port. Long-time members of the team noted how the attitude towards safety has changed over the last 25 years, and that it is now at the very core of their approach to business.

HPA’s proactive approach to keeping the harbour safe and sound extends to the waterfront’s recreational users. This spring, HPA staff members volunteered to help rowing teams from area schools stay safe during their training programs. HPA partnered with the Leander Boat Club to provide on-water support during the cold water training period, with volunteers stationed aboard the Port’s new Zodiac Rigid Hulled Inflatable Boat (RHIB). HPA acquired its new Zodiac RHIB in 2012 as part of its ongoing commitment to a safe and secure port and harbour. HPA’s President & CEO Bruce Wood was one of the volunteers early one morning, when he and fellow volunteer Vicki Gruber sped to the aid of a pair of students whose racing shell had flipped over. Working with Leander’s coaching team, the students were pulled safely from the lake, while their shell was towed to dock. For the students, “it was an experience that showed just how quickly conditions can change on the harbour, and how knowing what to do, and how to react quickly, can make all the difference,” said Bruce Wood.

The Leander partnership was just one of the ways the Port shows leadership within the community when it comes to safety in and around the harbour waters. HPA also ensures boating safety information and resources are available to all of its marina customers, and issues public service announcements on boating safety at the start of each boating season.

On the security side, HPA’s approach involves vigilance and continuous improvement. “As the highest volume port on the Canadian side of the Great Lakes, it is critical that our customers and international trading partners have the highest level of confidence.” The Harbour Master’s Office, which is responsible for port safety and security on and off the water, meets regularly with representatives of tenant marine facilities and local emergency services, to align plans and conduct security preparedness exercises. Stakeholders come together to test HPA marine facility security plans, including responsibilities and communication protocols. Annual exercises in maritime security preparedness are necessary to meet the requirements of Transport Canada’s Marine Transportation Security Regulations. “These exercises help us ensure we are prepared to respond to potential security threats, and to maintain the safety of the port and surrounding community,” said Harbour Master Danny Slade. The Port’s emergency plans are tested against a range of potential threats and disaster situations, and protocols are designed to coordinate with emergency management activities at a municipal and regional level.

Security measures also reflect the port’s role as a multimodal hub. One of HPA’s key growth strategies in the coming years is to expand the port’s rail cargo and handling capacity. As part of this strategy, the port will be able to bring more rail cars into its secure perimeter for storage and handling, and monitor stored rail cars through HPA’s security system. “A safe port is a prosperous port,” notes Bruce Wood. “This approach makes good business sense, allowing us to increase throughput and diversify our cargo mix. It is also of value to our customers and the broader community, because we can offer a higher level of care for sensitive cargo.”