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Future Prosperity of the Port of Thunder Bay At Risk

Embargoed until 18:00 PM Sept. 22, 2010

Julia Fields (613) 294-8515

Marine Industry Stakeholders Urge Government to Act

Thunder Bay, Ontario (September 21, 2010) — Three-quarters of the Port of Thunder Bay’s commercial business could be lost if the State of New York goes ahead with unachievable standards governing the treatment of ballast water carried by ships through the St. Lawrence Seaway. Marine industry executives, gathered in Thunder Bay for an annual meeting of the Ontario Marine Transportation Forum, called on local politicians and business leaders to urge Ontario members of provincial parliament to work with New York and federal politicians to devise one set of achievable ballast water treatment standards throughout the Great Lakes-Seaway system.

There is currently no ballast water treatment equipment in the world that would allow ships to meet the New York standards — which starting in 2012 will be 100 times those being proposed by the International Maritime Organization (IMO), an agency of the United Nations, and require ships built after 2013 to have equipment that eliminates the presence of organisms to 1000 times the IMO standard.

Tim Heney, chief executive of the Port of Thunder Bay, said: “This is an issue that has wider implications for the City of Thunder Bay. Thunder Bay is the largest export port on the Seaway. Close to 75 per cent of the cargo that our port handles must travel through New York Waters and out the Seaway to reach overseas markets. If these regulations are enforced in 2012, it would effectively block all international marine traffic through the St. Lawrence Seaway into the Great Lakes and more specifically to and from the Port of Thunder Bay.”

The Port of Thunder Bay directly employs more than 450 people and has a wider annual economic impact of more than $200 million.

Heney said: “The Port of Thunder Bay has strong prospects for the future. We are the largest grain port in the entire Great Lakes system and we have been successfully diversifying into handling oversized project cargo destined for the Oil Sands and wind power farms. All of this would be in jeopardy if the New York regulations come into force. We need to act now to ensure that a workable solution is put in place before 2012.”

The prospect of these new regulations, along with a federal 25 per cent import duty imposed on any new vessels bought overseas, is already discouraging Canadian shipowners from making future investments in much-needed new vessels.

The industry is hopeful that the federal government will follow through in the coming months with a proposal made last year to eliminate the 25 per cent import duty on foreign-made ships. The duty essentially adds $10 million to the average cost of buying a vessel.

Allister Paterson, chief executive of Seaway Marine Transport, which sends 175 vessels to the Port of Thunder Bay every year, said: “The Great Lakes-Seaway industry is at a critical crossroads. The prospects for the future are positive if the industry is able to recapitalize its aging fleet.”

The average age of Great Lakes Canadian-flag vessels is 38 years. Industry stakeholders have pointed out that new vessels would not only help the Great Lakes-Seaway industry remain competitive against other coastal sea ports and rail and truck transport, but also bring about further improvements to the environment. Marine shipping is already the most fuel-efficient mode of transportation, which gives it a smaller carbon footprint. Industry estimates that new vessels would further reduce SOx, NOx and carbon emissions by up to 45 per cent on a unit basis.

Paterson continued, “We need to be able to buy ships from companies that have the capacity to quickly deliver the most cost-effective, environmentally friendly product. That’s not available in Canada. We also need to have regulators in both Canada and the US create a framework that provides us with environmental performance targets that are reasonable, obtainable and consistent.” The marine industry has collaborated with the US and Canadian governments to put in place strong protections against the introduction of invasive species. All vessels entering the Great Lakes from abroad are required to exchange (pump out) their ballast water while still at sea and flush any empty tanks with ocean water. This practice helps to physically remove organisms from ballast tanks. Further, seawater (which has a high salinity) will kill many freshwater organisms.

To ensure compliance, the U.S. and Canadian governments inspect and test every foreign ship entering the Great Lakes in Montreal – the gateway to the St. Lawrence Seaway.

Since these protections were put in place in 2006, there have been no new discoveries of aquatic nuisance species entering the Great Lakes system via ballast water.

Paterson said: “We’re not opposed to environmental protections. As an industry, we’re committed to continuously improving our environmental record. All we’re asking for is that politicians come together and work with industry to come up with bi-national regulations that apply to the entire Great Lakes region and are technologically obtainable and economically feasible.”

Marine Delivers is a bi-national, industry collaboration that aims to demonstrate the economic contribution and environmental sustainability of the shipping industry throughout the Great Lakes region. The Marine Delivers initiative is administered by the American Great Lakes Ports Association in the United States, and the Chamber of Marine Commerce in Canada. For more information, visit the Marine Delivers website at

About the Chamber of Marine Commerce

The Chamber of Marine Commerce (CMC) is a bi-national association that represents diverse marine industry stakeholders including major Canadian and American shippers, ports, terminals and marine service providers, as well as Canadian 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:
Jason Card
Chamber of Marine Commerce
(613) 447 5401