Canadian Great Lakes-Seaway Ports Reflect on 2019 as Shipping Season Nears End

December 18, 2019 – As the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway heads into the final weeks of the 2019 shipping season, ports along the Great Lakes are reporting the wins and challenges they’re facing at the end of the year.

Overall cargo on the St. Lawrence Seaway totaled 34 million metric tons at the end of November; down 6 per cent from 2018. (Figures represent volumes from March 22 through November 30.)

“Tonnage results on the Seaway reflect the more challenging conditions encountered this year as compared to 2018, in which Seaway tonnage was at a 10-year high,” said Terence Bowles, President and CEO of The St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation. “Trade tensions, difficult navigational conditions due to very high-water flows within the St. Lawrence River, combined with adverse weather conditions impacting grain harvests, have served to restrain total cargo volumes. Looking ahead, we see carriers working hard to wrap up the year and clear some backlogs of freight, especially western grain, which underscores the importance of the final weeks of the navigation season.”

For the third consecutive year, the Port of Toronto moved more than 2 million metric tons of bulk and general cargo products through the Port, representing another strong year in marine imports. By the end of 2019, more than 190 ships will have visited the Port of Toronto, bringing sugar, road salt, cement, aggregate and steel directly into the heart of downtown Toronto.

With the Greater Toronto Area’s construction industry showing no signs of slowing down, cement cargo imports are up, totaling more than 600,000 metric tons. Salt cargo levels are also up with more than 750,000 metric tons imported. This year, the Port played a vital role in the movement of specialized tunnel drilling equipment arriving from China in November; cargo destined for use in the City of Toronto’s Ashbridge’s Bay Sewer Treatment Outfall Project.

In addition, the number of cruise ships visiting the Port of Toronto more than doubled in 2019 with 36 cruise ships calling at the Port, bringing approximately 12,000 visitors to Toronto. This record-year in cruising highlights the importance of the ever-growing Great Lakes cruise ship business and the role it plays in contributing to Toronto’s tourism industry.

“From the cement and steel used to build and enhance infrastructure across the Greater Toronto Area to the sugar used to support the food and beverage industry, the goods delivered through the Port of Toronto are part of an important supply chain that services many of the city’s key sectors,” says Geoffrey Wilson, CEO of Ports Toronto. “In 2020 and beyond, the Port will continue to provide Canadian and international businesses with a convenient, cost-effective and environmentally-responsible way of bringing goods into Canada’s largest city.”

Harbour services at the Port of Johnstown are up over 50 per cent from 2018 thanks in large part to a wind energy project being transferred through the Port, as well as an increase in salt. Through November, the Port has already seen the same amount of salt cargo as 2018, 520,000 metric tons, with four additional vessels due to arrive in December. Soybean exports are well below 2018 numbers as brokers continue to be challenged by the global markets and pricing.

“Overall, our year to date numbers for our marine division are well ahead of last year and the shortfall in grain has been made up by the project cargo coming through the Port and the increase in salt,” said Robert Dalley, Port of Johnstown General Manager. “Our past investments, including an additional 20 acres in laydown area, are now paying huge dividends to the Port and we look forward to this continuing into the 2020 season.”

Cargo volumes transiting the Port of Hamilton in 2019 have returned to levels closer to the Port’s five-year average and are expected to achieve approximately 10 million metric tons by season’s end. With the close of the Welland Canal section of the Seaway extended to January 8, 2020, the Port expects to be able to fit in a few extra late-season shipments of salt to help boost its final results.

On the other side of Lake Ontario, the Port of Oshawa volumes are trending 13 per cent higher compared to the same time last year, seeing increases in cement, asphalt, salt and construction materials. Oshawa added new capacity in 2019 with a $6 million grain terminal, which will serve farmers across the Durham region. The new terminal, operated by Sollio Agriculture, shipped its first load of grain in November.

The Hamilton Oshawa Port Authority saw several exciting milestones during the 2019 shipping season including the amalgamation of Hamilton’s and Oshawa’s ports, announced by the Minister of Transport in June, and its recent rebrand as HOPA Ports. HOPA Ports has been busy investing in high-quality infrastructure, including a $16 million agri-food expansion at Pier 10 in Hamilton, and the ongoing $35.5 million Westport Modernization Project, both supported by the National Trade Corridors Fund.

“The amalgamation has set us up to expand and embrace a new multimodal reality as bookends to the Greater Toronto Hamilton Area,” said HOPA Ports CEO, Ian Hamilton. “We look forward to supporting transportation-intensive businesses in Ontario by continuing to make strategic infrastructure investments on Ontario’s working waterfronts.”


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About the Chamber of Marine Commerce

The Chamber of Marine Commerce is a bi-national association that represents more than 130 marine industry stakeholders including major Canadian and American shippers, ports, terminals and marine service providers, as well as domestic and international ship owners. The Chamber advocates for safe, sustainable, harmonized and competitive policy and regulation that recognizes the marine transportation system’s significant advantages in the Great Lakes, St. Lawrence, Coastal and Arctic regions.

Media Contact:

Julia Fields

Chamber of Marine Commerce

(613) 294-8515