Industrial giants name top priorities for Great Lakes shipping

North America’s largest mining, manufacturing and agricultural companies have helped identify four top priorities to improve the competitiveness of Great Lakes shipping and, as a result, the prosperity of the entire region.

These priorities will be the Chamber of Marine Commerce’s focus in the coming year.

“Our customers are critical to the viability of Great Lakes/Seaway shipping and the underlying economy. As one of our large industrial customers put it: No customer equals no ships, no ports, no Seaway,” said Stephen Brooks, President of the Chamber of Marine Commerce. “Tough global economic conditions mean that our manufacturing, food, mining and construction sectors are under more pressure than ever to be competitive. We need governments to focus on creating world-class transportation networks that will help them succeed.”

North America’s largest mining, manufacturing and agricultural companies have helped identify four top priorities to improve the competitiveness of Great Lakes shipping and, as a result, the prosperity of the entire region.

These priorities will be the Chamber of Marine Commerce’s focus in the coming year.

“Our customers are critical to the viability of Great Lakes/Seaway shipping and the underlying economy. As one of our large industrial customers put it: No customer equals no ships, no ports, no Seaway,” said Stephen Brooks, President of the Chamber of Marine Commerce. “Tough global economic conditions mean that our manufacturing, food, mining and construction sectors are under more pressure than ever to be competitive. We need governments to focus on creating world-class transportation networks that will help them succeed.”

The four priorities are:

  1. Invest in infrastructure.
  2. Harmonize regulations across borders.
  3. Reduce red tape and lower fees for government-mandated services.
  4. Make environmental regulations science-based.

Quotes from Chamber of Marine Commerce customer members:

Jonathan Bamberger, President of Redpath Sugar: “Continued investment in the St. Lawrence Seaway infrastructure is critical not only to Redpath, but to the entire Ontario food manufacturing industry, which employs 83,000 people.”

Francois Allard, K&S Windsor Salt’s Vice-President – Administration: “We use the Great Lakes/Seaway to ship 75 percent of our product from our Ojibway Mine in Windsor. It’s crucial to our company that the U.S. and Canadian Coast Guards have the equipment and resources to effectively manage the ice during harsh winters.”

Rick Ruzzin, Sr., Director of Logistics for Compass Minerals: “Using marine reduces truck traffic in our supply chain and extends our reach to support North American markets. We need continued collaboration between industry and government on the costs of mandated services to reach sustainable outcomes for all stakeholders. To raise marine costs such that companies look to rail or truck, instead of vessel freight, would compromise our ability to compete against imports and negatively impact local business.”

Carsten Bredin, Vice-President of Grain Merchandising for Richardson International: “If we can’t access transportation in the Eastern Corridor because ships can’t comply with the regulations in certain jurisdictions or it is not economically feasible to do so, that’s a major roadblock. Canada needs this corridor to export grain to key trade markets.”

Ward Weisensel, SVP of Trading, Procurement and Risk with G3 Canada Ltd.: “We need harmonized ballast water regulations for the U.S. and Canadian Great Lakes, regulations that are based on sound science and are cost-effective. Otherwise, if ballast water regulations unreasonably increase costs, it will hurt the Seaway and all of the industry that depends on it. If the Seaway gets even $2/per metric ton more expensive, significant volumes of Prairie grain could move west or south instead. It doesn’t seem like very much, but those are the margins in the grain trade.”

James Reznik, St. Marys Cement (Votorantim Cimentos), Director Logistics – North America: “Some government-mandated services are necessary, but the fees are not always being used appropriately. In the U.S., we pay Harbor Maintenance Fees but only up to approximately 50 percent of the money is actually used for its intended purposes of dredging and maintaining ports and waterways. We frequently have to light-load vessels because ports are not adequately dredged, which means more trips to carry our products and more costs.”

Tom Brown, Logistics Manager of LafargeHolcim: “Environmental regulations should absolutely be based on sound science. When regulatory requirements change it is very challenging from a planning perspective. It affects the development of new capacity and new business. Transportation is a significant cost component for limestone and cement. We also have to consider this from an environmental standpoint. Our quarries and plants are serviced by fuel-efficient ships that can carry 25,000 tons at a time. If we lose business to a land-locked competitor that transports only by truck, that could lead to more road congestion and air emissions.”

For the full background to each priority and more quotes from our member companies, please see the Chamber of Marine Commerce’s Marine Delivers Magazine.

Maritime Editorial