With more than $2 billion in improvements slated to be made over the next five years, the St. Lawrence Seaway should solidify itself as a global shipping route, Canada’s gateway to the world.
That’s good news for ports like Thunder Bay, says Terence Bowles, president and CEO of the St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation.
With $500 million being spent to rejuvenate the lock system on the waterway and another $1.5 billion spent privately to improve and upgrade fleets, a city like Thunder Bay should see more traffic hit the port, as delivery costs continue to decrease.
“These are the most efficient ships on the water. Basically they’re something like 20 to 25 per cent more efficient. The greenhouse gases are reduced by an equivalent amount. So they’re very cost-efficient and we believe we’re going to help the seaway move forward,” said Bowles, invited to speak Wednesday at the revitalized Thunder Bay Port Authority Luncheon, the first held in the city since 2000.
“And of course that will help the competitiveness of Thunder Bay.”
Bowles said shipping is already 20 per cent more efficient than rail, and this will only lower the cost of delivery.
Combined with the closing of the Canadian Wheat Board by the federal government last year, and there’s no reason Thunder Bay’s port can’t thrive, Bowles said.
In 2012 the Port Authority handled 6.45 million tonnes of grain, the most since 2006. Overall cargo hit 7.84 million tonnes, the highest in four years.
“Obviously last year we had a very good year on wheat ... So we’re hoping that’s going to happen again this year,” Bowles said, making his first visit to the city.
“Hopefully it will be favourable to the seaway and Thunder Bay.”
He’s hoping non-grain cargo follows suit.
“Can we bring in more cargo from overseas, Europe and things like that,” he said. “I think Thunder Bay and certainly the port, we have to go out there and find this new business. So it’s very important we make people understand what we can do for them in Thunder Bay.”
Tim Heney, chief executive officer at the Thunder Bay Port Authority, says it’s a good sign to see so much investment being made along the St. Lawrence Seaway, which he said is the city’s marine lifeline to the world.
“It’s pretty much essential,” Heney said. “Most of our cargo goes down the seaway, so without a seaway, there wouldn’t be a port of Thunder Bay.
“It’s really important for a sustainability aspect. The ships have been getting old. We’re seeing new ships being built now. The seaway locks themselves are being refurbished. It’s very encouraging for us. Obviously it means the system is going to be around for a long time to come.”