The Port of Hamilton celebrates its 100th anniversary in 2012, and the occasion serves as an opportunity to tell the story of the Port’s central role in Hamilton’s growth and prosperity through the decades.

“We are very focused on future growth,” said HPA President and CEO Bruce Wood. “So it is nice to pause and reflect on the Port’s fascinating history.”

The Hamilton Harbour Commissioners was created by an Act of Parliament in 1912, and guided the growth of the Port for close to nine decades. Its successor is today’s Hamilton Port Authority (HPA), officially created in 2001.

Over the past century, Port business has changed a great deal, tracing the city’s industrial growth. Activity at the Port of Hamilton has always been a close reflection of what is important to the wider community. During the Second World War, the Port played a key role in moving munitions, armour plating and other materials manufactured in Hamilton to serve the war effort overseas. Since the seventies, activities have reflected the community’s priority on environmental sustainability along with the economic prosperity that the Port delivers.

Today, the P­­ort of Hamilton handles a wide range of cargoes, including grains and other agricultural products, steel-making materials, liquid bulk and industrial machinery. Hamilton’s port is now the busiest Canadian port on the Great Lakes, handling more than $2 billion worth of cargo each year.

“A lot has indeed changed, but some things are definitely consistent over the years,” said Mr. Wood. “Thanks to its strategic location, the Port has always been an engine of the regional economy, and an active participant in community life.”

The HPA is celebrating its centennial with a series of community events intended to highlight the Port’s role in the social and commercial life of the city – past and present. In July, an exhibit opened at the Art Gallery of Hamilton showcasing historical and contemporary artworks from HPA’s collection, as well as images submitted by the public. The collection offers a perspective on Hamilton at work and play, and salutes the Port’s diverse industrial and natural heritage, past and present.  Celebrating a century in images and in words, HPA will be producing a commemorative book with fascinating photos and stories from days gone by.

The HPA also participated in the City’s  ‘Doors Open’ event, welcoming 1,000 visitors to the unique heritage building that houses its administrative offices, and where a new commemorative plaque and time capsule will be displayed. Also, Hamilton will play host to the 2012 ACPA Annual Conference, where leaders from across Canada will come together to discuss the ‘game changers’ that are revolutionizing the marine industry.

Emerging from its industrial past, today’s Hamilton Port Authority has set an ambitious course for the future. Under the stewardship of its President and CEO, Port of Hamilton is well on its way to reaching the goal of becoming the Great Lakes port of choice by 2020. The Port’s 2008 strategic plan targeted $500 million in infrastructure investments and improvements to reach that goal. “Just four years into the plan, we are already halfway toward our goal,” said Mr. Wood.

The HPA is focused on cargo diversification, with the intent of doubling the volume of non-steel related commodities moving through the port. New facilities by Parrish and Heimbecker, as well as McAsphalt Industries, are enabling bulk throughput capacity growth, as is the movement of oversized project cargo including the Molson fermentation tanks, windmill blades and pressure vessels. The Port projects it will surpass the 4-million-tonne mark in non-steel cargo by 2020.

“Development has created new capacity and elevated the Port across the country and internationally, benefiting business across Hamilton and the broader region,” said Mr. Wood. “We are celebrating 100 years of success, and we are definitely looking forward to 100 more.”

Historical Highlights

1912 –   On April 1, 1912, an Act of Parliament created the Hamilton Harbour Commissioners (HHC), just as the city’s two big steel mills were being established: The Steel Company of Canada (now US Steel Canada) in 1910, and Dominion Steel Castings Company Ltd. (now ArcelorMittal Dofasco).  In 1912, the port had a shipping capacity of 89,000 tonnes.

1927 –   Through 1927, the Burlington Canal was widened and deepened, allowing for larger ships to pass, and resulting in a doubling of harbour tonnage from 1929 to 1934.

1939-45 – During the Second World War, the port played an important role, as local industry provided munitions, armour plating and other materials in support of Canada’s war effort overseas.

1959 –   In 1959, the St. Lawrence Seaway opened, increasing the number of ships able to travel into the Great Lakes. The first vessel to travel through the newly opened Seaway berthed in Hamilton.

1962 –   In 1962, work began on the multi-million dollar Catharine Street pier and terminal. From the first day of operation in 1967, this new Centennial Terminal began to set record tonnage figures.

1977-84 – Beginning in the late seventies, City of Hamilton and the Hamilton Harbour Commissioners began a concerted effort to improve water quality and public access to the harbour. This included the donation to the City of seven acres of waterfront property at Pier 4 in 1984.

1990 –   By the early nineties, City of Hamilton was able to unveil several new gems on the waterfront: Bayfront and Pier 4 parks, as well as the Waterfront Trail, which have since made Hamilton Harbour a popular destination for residents and visitors.

2001 –   The Hamilton Harbour Commissioners was formally wound up in 2001, and the current Hamilton Port Authority was created to take its place.

2012 –   Today Port of Hamilton is the busiest Canadian port on the Great Lakes, handling 11 million tonnes of cargo, carried by over 630 ships. A Martin Associates study revealed that Port of Hamilton contributes to $5.9 billion in economic activity and 38,000 jobs in Ontario.