Through ice and snow: Winter shipping supports major Great Lakes-St. Lawrence industries, cities
Friday, February 2, 2018 - 6:10 am

OGDENSBURG -- It may be a little-known fact, but ships deliver vital supplies such as road salt, heating oil and construction materials in the winter to cities across the Great Lakes and in the lower St. Lawrence River on behalf of North American industries, said a press release from the Chamber of Marine Commerce.

“Every winter, ships deliver products such as road salt to promote safe travel in cities hard-hit by winter conditions, and heating oil for homes,” says Bruce Burrows, president of the Chamber of Marine Commerce. “These deliveries allow mining and energy companies to run their operations in the most cost effective and efficient way, thus safeguarding jobs in their communities.”

“Ship operators, ports and other stakeholders rely on the joint service of Canadian and U.S. Coast Guards to clear channel choke points,” said Burrows. “This is an important government service, supported by industry fees, that helps the Canadian and U.S. economies. We are thankful to the hard-working men and women of the Coast Guards for their efforts this winter. The unusually difficult ice conditions this January underscores the urgency of upgrading and expanding Coast Guard icebreaking resources.”

In addition to Coast Guard services, ship operators contract private ice-breaking services of tugs where ice conditions permit.

This winter, Burlington-based McKeil Marine’s tug and barge units are delivering aggregates (stone) from Picton Terminals (Picton, Ontario) for construction projects in Toronto and Amherst Island. Montreal-based CSL Group’s ships are carrying salt from the Magdalen Islands to Montreal and Quebec City.

St. Catharines-based Algoma Central Corporation’s freighters are carrying road salt from Compass Minerals’ mine in Goderich, Ontario to U.S. cities such as Milwaukee, Green Bay, Chicago and Detroit. Algoma also plans to deliver salt from K+S Windsor’s mine in Windsor, Ontario to Detroit and Chicago.

“Winter marine shipping and the support of Coast Guard services allows us to more efficiently run our Goderich mining operation all year long. Moving our road salt by ship is by far the most cost-effective and environmentally friendly way to reach our customers. Winter shipping also allows us the flexibility of delivering salt to cities and municipal customers that may need more product than originally anticipated to help keep people safe during adverse weather,” Rick Ruzzin, senior director, logistics, Compass Minerals, said.

Algoma also operates three double-hulled tankers that carry product between Imperial Oil’s Nanticoke and Sarnia refineries all-year round, allowing it to efficiently produce gasoline, heating oil and other fuels for heavy equipment. Tankers then transport fuels to Sault Ste. Marie for homes and businesses throughout the region.

“We’re proud of our crews who work diligently through ice and snow to safely deliver products to the communities we serve,” said Gregg Ruhl, chief operating officer, Algoma Central Corporation. “There’s great demand for our shipping services in the winter months. We could do more to support North American industries with expanded ice-breaking services.”

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.