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Peter Berry

Harbour Master

Windsor Port Authority
Years in Industry: 3


A former law enforcement officer, it was a natural transition for Peter Berry to become the “eyes and ears” of the Port of Windsor three years ago. The 50-year-old harbour master oversees the day-to-day operations of the approximately 26-km long port and everything that entails from crime prevention, emergency response and environmental stewardship to handling tenant inquiries, new business and ensuring the port facilities are running smoothly.

The Port of Windsor is situated on the Detroit River, directly opposite Detroit, Michigan and one of the busiest U.S./Canadian border crossings for North American trade. That brings big business opportunities — more than 1100 ships call into the privately-owned terminals at the port each year carrying everything from grain, salt and construction materials to steel, oil and wind turbines. The Port helps generate $130 million in business revenues and supports over 900 jobs in Ontario. Recreational boats are also in abundance on the river and at the port’s Riverside Marina. All of this traffic and the sheer expanse of the port’s shoreline, means a high-degree of vigilance is required from the harbour master.

“A significant part of what I do each day is check each of the facilities, how the dock is operating — are there potential threats? Are the ships safely moored, is everyone in the harbour behaving properly? It could be that someone is trespassing or a suspicious boat has landed on an unused part of our property shoreline and I need to inform Transport Canada or the police authorities,” Berry explains. “Then the phone calls start coming in. It could be an existing tenant that wants to discuss making changes to their property or expansion or it could be someone new who has a project in mind involving the Port. That’s the great thing about this job, I never know what I will be working on when I come in each morning.”

After his years in law enforcement, Berry owned his own corporate security and process engineering consulting firm. The harbour master position was the perfect opportunity to use his background and skills set.

Berry acts as the Port’s liaison with the local emergency authorities, Transport Canada and the Canadian and U.S. Coast Guards to provide valuable information in the event of an emergency such as the river depth and flows, witness reports of damages or incidents. He also sits on nine different environmental committees devoted to monitoring the Detroit River and protecting the local wildlife habitat.

“The port is connected to the city and the region in so many different ways. For example, any development we do has to be in consideration of the river and requires an environmental assessment. We also spend a lot of time on public education — explaining why the port is important to the region, how it safely operates and what regulations are in force on the river.”

One of Berry’s proudest accomplishments so far has been the port authority’s program to reduce crime in formerly underutilized areas on its premises by using environmental design to discourage illegal activities and reclaim green space for the community. “Every large port has land that is vacant and becomes grown over with trees and brush. We made landscape changes that significantly increase the chances of perpetrators being detected and apprehended. In the process, we created public spaces where it’s once again safe and a pleasure for the port’s neighbours to spend time.”