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New federal regulations worry deep-water port planners

Tuesday, March 26, 2013   by: Darren Taylor

Sault Ste. Marie Mayor Debbie Amaroso and City Council approved a resolution Monday aimed at making federal Transport Minister Denis Lebel aware of the City’s concern over new regulations, which would, if passed, have a heavy financial impact on Great Lakes shipping.

Great Lakes shipping, it is felt by Council, would decrease as a result, affecting Sault Ste. Marie’s plans for a much-needed deep-water port for local industry.

Mayor Amaroso, speaking to, considers the proposed regulations “onerous.”

The proposed federal regulations, which are considered more restrictive by far than existing regulations in place by the U.S. Coast Guard for competing American vessels, call for each Canadian Great Lakes vessel to be fitted with new, expensive systems to manage ballast water.

Ballast water is contained within a ship, when it is not carrying cargo, to ensure a ship is deep enough in the water for effective propeller and rudder operation, especially in rough seas.

Installation of new ballast water management equipment is estimated to be between $1 million and $2.5 million for each Great Lakes vessel.

The new equipment is considered necessary by Transport Canada to prevent ballast water, once it is discharged from vessels, from filling the Great Lakes with invasive species, or non-indigenous species (NIS). 

Mayor Amaroso told us such machinery is necessary for ocean-going vessels, but costly and unnecessary for Great Lakes freighters.

“Our Great Lakes ships only stay in the Great Lakes, and since regulations for ballast water for ocean vessels were introduced in 2006, there have been no new sightings of any of these non-indigenous species, so the regulations (proposed by Transport Canada) are really, really onerous for Lake freighters. They’re talking about each ship having to have some new equipment installed that would do this ballast water change.”

Literature provided for Council’s consideration points out the ballast water systems “do not exist, would be prohibitively expensive and would do little, if anything, on the issue of aquatic invasive species transfer.”

Amaroso said: “The equipment is not even on the market for these ships yet. If you start looking at every ship having to have this machinery on it, then it raises the question for the shipping companies as to whether this is an affordable option anymore, and are the regulations really something that are necessary given that since 2006 when the ballast water regulations were brought in for the ocean going ships, there hasn’t been an increase in invasive species.”

The Mayor said the issue is a worrisome one for Sault Ste. Marie’s deep-water port planners.

“If the Great Lakes shipping companies can’t afford this equipment, shipping is going to decrease. Right now shipping is one of the most affordable modes of transportation, and if we create regulations that are so onerous, then those shipping companies are not going to get the business.

“It is certainly vital we protect the Great Lakes, but let’s approach this particular issue making sure we do what’s right for economic growth through shipping.”

Amaroso said Council’s resolution passed Monday is the first step.

Correspondence will be sent to Transport Minister Lebel and to officials of the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative. 

Amaroso said Sault Ste. Marie MP Bryan Hayes has been made aware of the issue.

The Mayor told us: “Transport Canada is in the very initial stages of developing these regulations, so we want to make sure that we who reside along the Great Lakes have some kind of impact in the direction that they go. We want the water transportation for the benefit of our entire region.”

On another matter of local importance, Amaroso told us she is pleased Ontario Minister of Energy Bob Chiarelli has officially notified her in a letter dated March 19, 2013, that utilities like Sault Ste. Marie’s PUC will not be forced through legislation to consolidate with utility companies from other communities in a massive regionalization of electricity and water distribution, presumably to generate savings.

That proposal, brought forward by the Ontario Distribution Sector Review Panel in a December 2012 report, raised red flags among Sault PUC officials, who assert regional consolidation would not generate savings, would affect the quality of customer service and lead to a loss of local jobs.

Chiarelli’s letter to Amaroso stated the provincial government is still determined to find ways “to bend the cost curve” and that utilities will be encouraged to voluntarily consolidate to achieve that.

Chiarelli has asked provincial utilities to come up with input on cost-cutting measures.

Amaroso said: “The Ontario cabinet said they would not legislate consolidation when they visited Sault Ste. Marie, so it’s nice to see it in writing. Right now I’m waiting for the PUC to respond to the Minister’s invitation to participate in discussion.”

Note: Comments that appear on the site are not the opinion of If you see an abusive post, please click the link beside the post to report it.
T-pot 3/26/2013 7:36:03 PM Report

But, but.... the new regulations are bad and don't protect our waterways!!!!
shorty38 3/26/2013 8:48:33 PM Report

Maybe the time has come to keep the ocean carriers on the oceans, not in the great lakes. Also maybe the time has come to not the lake carriers get bigger, then we would not have to keep dredging and deepening our canals, then the lake levels may not keep receding from our beaches and cottage areas.
shorty38 3/26/2013 8:57:35 PM Report

It also appears to me that most of city council, the Mayor, the CAO and MPP has all been snowed by the Ministers meeting that was held in the north. The new appointed Premier and her Ministers had a nice paid visit to Sault Ste Marie. One eye catcher was the transportation Minister stating that our hyways are maintened so good by a contractor,did he drive in on the well cared for Trans Canada or did he fly in??
mallet 3/26/2013 9:22:53 PM Report

T-POT et al...

I doubt very much if council has the slightest idea what bilge water is. This is not like the water taken on board small craft, it goes into tank built specifically for the purpose of leveling a ship, and can with little additional piping be discharged into a local drain if necessary. Wow, people get so up tight about things they have little or no knowledge of, if only they stuck with things they knew, they would be so much better off..
AceOfBass 3/26/2013 9:39:48 PM Report

The bilge is the lowest part of a ship and water,seawater,leaking pipes,oil all accumulate there.Every once in a while the bilge is pumped out along side.It is not to be dumped into the harbor or open sea because of the pollutants in it.

Ballast water is different and is used to stabilize the ship and that is where the invasive species come from.
AceOfBass 3/26/2013 9:58:05 PM Report

I can understand why the ballast water is not wanted to be dumped into the Great Lakes.They should have some kind of filtering system for ballast water to ensure what ever is in it does not get into the Great Lakes.
I'm In 3/26/2013 9:59:28 PM Report

I can't understand why this city is after a deep sea harbour-it didn't work 30 to 40 years ago when they thought Honda was building a car plant in the Sault, the only industry in the Sault is ESSAR and their steel products are for domestic markets, the shipping for that is done by rail and truck. Lets face it city hall you and your EDC is a joke because you are so far north and you will not get new industry if you think a deep sea harbour will help or you would have had it when the global enconomy was at its peak, so give it up like the feds say. Mayor Debbie is so far behind in the times she is lost along with CAO Joe.

Why doesn't the EDC discuss how to 4-lane 17 east and north
batchbay 3/27/2013 6:37:04 AM Report

These regulations are in place to preserve the integrity of the Great Lakes water quality. Ballast controls are a essential part of most large bulk carriers and other types of commercial ships. Improvments in ship's ability to protect the Great Lakes should be a must for any commercial ship entering them. Why should the precious fresh water of our largest lakes be sacrificed in order to reduce expenses for a corporation that reapes the profits of running out dated hulls?

This is only a outcry from private sector in spending their precious dollars on actual legitimate upgrades. Oh by the way, this company has recently won awards for business operation in the past year.

This brings to light some concerns. Why has the US Coast Guard been the authority over this jurisdiction? Where is the Canadian over sight on this? Is this due to "Its always been the US" in the Sault area locks?

The Sault Ste Marie area brings some challenges due to it's unique geographical and political boundaries. Decision's made on the St Mary's river should be a joint US/Canada iniatitive.

In conclusion, the owners of these aging hulls need to budget for upgrades and recognize that we are no longer operating without due diligence. It is the registered owners responsibility to maintain enviromental compliance, with both US and Canadian law.
billeh 3/27/2013 8:21:51 AM Report

Though her eyes are blue,
really be brown...
Poppa always said don't trust someone with no upper lip ^^

Big specks no wammies 3/27/2013 9:21:07 AM Report

W. Yote 3/27/2013 9:29:31 AM Report

If the cost of shipping by sea is that much better than by train or truck, $1-$2 million / ship should not be a prohibitive cost to continue to ship by sea. The added cost of shipping by other means over a short time would be greater. If this isnt the case, then it isnt all that much less expensive to ship by sea and maybe we should be investing in better rail!
Saultbie22 3/27/2013 9:32:54 AM Report

@Shorty38 – the ocean carriers aren’t the ones who will be affected by this. Read the article.

@batchbay – it even states that since monitoring began in 2006, there has been no increase in invasive species. It’s not a matter of “reducing expenses” for a corporation – it’s a matter of not making them spend $1-2.5M per vessel to continue doing business. Because if they decide to NOT spend that money, that’s people who lose their jobs, and families that lose their livelihoods, which in turn reduces jobs here in the Sault (no boats to unload, etc). I’m not saying they should let rotting ships sail, but even you said they won awards for business operation in the past year – clearly that means they maintain their fleet, keep their people safe, and operate with due diligence.

@I’m In – Essar is the only industry in the Sault because we are currently inaccessible to some industries due to not having a deep harbour port. I personally find it unsettling that we rely on one industry – pretty risky if you ask me. I say spend the money, build the port, and market the hell out of our true accessibility in order to get other industries into this City. We need to diversify.

Go Amaroso!
Big specks no wammies 3/27/2013 9:57:43 AM Report

cleanfreak 3/27/2013 10:35:49 AM Report

o boy the sault needs help she has no ideal blabla bla
cleanfreak 3/27/2013 10:39:26 AM Report

tcowen 3/27/2013 4:26:45 PM Report

Essar wants a deep-sea port.. Let Essar pay for it. We've been taxed into oblivion already paying for 'Infrastructure' projects that only benefit private corporations.

Using our money & 'feel-good' government grants to pay for infrastructure that should have been factored from profits not taxpayers..

One needs only look at the absolute swirly these guys made of the 'Infrastructure' created at St. Mary's..

Millions of our dollars & pensions fist-pumped into a 'feel-good' election campaign that only served to line the pockets of a few local individuals.

Millions more double-pumped into local pockets & a (private) PUC building we don't own & didn't even need.. add insult to injury we paid for it twice with rate increases that will amount to over 135% by 2015.

& just in case they thought we forgot.. you can't call it a hockey-rink unless it actually has ice.

The last thing we need is for these jokers to start tossing millions of our tax dollars into the river.
Note: Comments that appear on the site are not the opinion of If you see an abusive post, please click the link beside the post to report it.
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