Port of Windsor and the Windsor Transportation Club concluded the celebration of the 25th anniversary of Windsor Marine Night on May 3rd on a high note, with positive economic predictions for the 2012 shipping season and two keynote speeches.

Speaking to an audience of prominent local business leaders and politicians, Windsor Port Authority (WPA) Chairman Charles Pingle started off the evening by noting that the port is benefitting from new developments with Miller Paving and McAsphalt Industries having just about completed their new $30 million facilities, while Lafarge Canada is in the process of doubling the size of its terminal to meet future demand for construction materials. The Port is projecting a 5- to 10-per-cent increase in cargo shipments in 2012 due to the start of major infrastructure projects in the region.

Dinner guests were then treated to a rousing speech from Jim Siddall, Vice-President of Operations for Lower Lakes Towing Ltd, a major ship operator, which delivers cargo for port users Lafarge, ADM, and the The Canadian Salt Company. Siddall rallied against the view by some U.S. state governments that the shipping industry is intransigent when it comes to its environmental responsibilities. He pointed out that marine is the greenest mode of transportation and that since 2006 no new invasive species have been introduced into the Great Lakes, due to strict ballast water management protocols and inspection. He said: “It is not our agenda to resist progressive change – we simply need time, technology and more practical regulatory planning.”

Siddall called on state and provincial governments to leave future shipping regulation in the hands of federal regulators who understand the complexities of the industry best – the U.S. Coast Guard and Transport Canada.  He stated the need to get industry groups involved earlier in the regulatory process  in Ottawa, in Washington and at the International Maritime Organization to help ensure reform is proactive, balanced and developed with sensitivity and recognition of the benefits the marine shipping industry brings to the economy and the environment.

Second up to the podium was keynote speaker Captain Stephen Torpey, Chief of Response for the Ninth District of the U.S. Coast Guard.  Captain Torpey’s speech outlined the importance of Canada and the U.S. working together to protect the maritime border. He noted that the Windsor-Detroit area is a microcosm of the challenges, threats and opportunities that exist throughout the shared border.

Captain Torpey outlined the successful cross-border partnerships that have developed in Search and Rescue operations and environmental responses between Canada and the United States, and the need to extend this to maritime law enforcement and security. In April, crews from the Coast Guard and RCMP arrived at the Coast Guard’s Maritime Law Enforcement Academy in Charleston, SC.  There, they are training together to eventually conduct integrated maritime law enforcement operations – most commonly known as Shiprider.  The Canada-U.S. Shiprider program, which involves vessels jointly crewed by specially trained and designated Canadian and U.S. law enforcement officers who are authorized to enforce the law on both sides of the international boundary line, is expected to come to the Windsor-Detroit region if legislation before Parliament is passed.

Captain Torpey said: “Shiprider will exponentially improve the ability of the RCMP, Coast Guard and other participating agencies to conduct maritime law enforcement and security operations. It will be a significant step forward in translating our shared responsibilities into on-water operational authorities and capabilities. And most importantly, it will make it harder for criminal elements and other threats to exploit the geography and proximity of our shared maritime border with Canada.”