Algoma Central CEO on new ship "Algoma Sault" and shipping industryTuesday, September 24, 2013 by: Darren Taylor
Algoma Central Corporation President and CEO Greg Wight (pictured) announced Tuesday that one of the company’s new environmentally improved Equinox Class ships will be called the “Algoma Sault” in honour of Sault Ste. Marie’s long-standing relationship with the company.
Wight made the announcement during a speech concerning the future of Great Lakes shipping, which he made to the Sault Ste. Marie Chamber of Commerce at the Delta Sault Ste. Marie Waterfront Hotel Tuesday.
The “Algoma Sault” is expected to begin operating in the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway region at the beginning of the 2015 shipping season.
Algoma Central and the Canadian Wheat Board have invested nearly $500 million in 10 new vessels to conduct trade in the region.
Two of those vessels are already in operation on the Great Lakes, with eight Equinox Class ships under construction in China.
The first Equinox Class ship, the “Algoma Equinox,” is expected to arrive in the Great Lakes in November.
Wight said Algoma Central is building up its “green credentials” with the arrival of its 10 new ships.
The new ships, Wight said, are not only designed to carry more cargo at higher speeds and with less fuel consumption, but also to operate in a way that cuts their greenhouse gas emissions by 45 percent.
New gas scrubbing systems on the Equinox ships will all but eliminate sulfur oxide emissions, Wight said.
Wight added, however, that the Canadian shipping industry is still facing challenges due to invasive species, a problem that originated from the ballast water of ocean vessels delivering goods in the Great Lakes region.
While no new invasive species have been introduced by ocean vessels in the Great Lakes since 2006 thanks to Canadian and U.S. industry and government efforts, Wight said new regulations introduced by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requires vessels to install new ballast water treatment equipment to cut the risk of any further introduction of invasive species into the region’s waterways.
The EPA has exempted the American Great Lakes fleet from those regulations, while not extending that exemption to the Canadian domestic fleet.
Wight said the considerable expense of installing new ballast water treatment equipment, which has not yet been proven to be effective in cold Great Lakes waters, will put the Canadian Great Lakes fleet at a serious economic disadvantage.
Wight called on the federal government in Ottawa to work with the U.S. in providing a fair approach to the problem.
Speaking to SooToday.com, Wight said: “We estimate it will cost $4 million to retrofit each older vessel with new ballast water treatment equipment, $2.5 million to $3 million for each new vessel.”
“For a 32 vessel fleet, that’s a lot of money.”
Wight told us installation of that equipment is still four to five years away, and that while Algoma Central is prepared to pay the necessary price to abide by regulations, he clearly wants Ottawa to address the issue.
“Transport Canada has not issued its regulations yet regarding ballast water treatment, but we want to see the Canadian and American fleets treated in the same way, so that nobody gets a competitive advantage.”
“We want the federal government to ensure they’ve scientifically measured the actual risk of introducing further invasive species against the cost of us having to put in new equipment.”
“More study has to be done before any more regulations,” Wight told us.
Wight told the audience that as Sault Ste. Marie hopes to construct a new deep-water port, the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence shipping industry is a vital player in the Canadian economy.
Wight stated that the economic activity generated by shipping along the 3,700 kilometre trade route supports the activities of 100 ports and commercial docks in Canada and the U.S.
Wight said an economic impact study shows cargo shipping in the region generates $35 billion in economic activity and supports 227,000 jobs, with a third of that activity in Ontario.
Wight said shipping of goods along the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway clearly saves money for industries that need to transport their goods to the marketplace.
Those industries include steelmakers (Wight noted that Algoma Central still hopes to add Essar Steel Algoma to its list of customers), farmers, a wide variety of manufacturers and power generators who rely on ships to transport steel, iron ore, coal, stone, salt, sugar, grain, machinery and wind turbines.
Information provided by the Ottawa-based Chamber of Marine Commerce and the American Great Lakes Ports Association shows that one ship carrying 25,000 tons of goods is equivalent to 225 rail cars or 870 trucks carrying that same amount.
It is estimated Great Lakes-St. Lawrence shipping saves companies approximately $3.6 billion a year in transportation costs.
Wight told SooToday.com: “As the congestion on railways and highways gets worse and worse, shipping is a logical and competitive alternative for manufacturers.”
Wight, a Sault Ste. Marie native, began his career with Algoma Central Corporation as the Marine Division Controller at its Bay Street office in 1980.
The company itself can trace its roots to Sault Ste. Marie, where it was incorporated in 1899 as the Algoma Central Railway Company, connecting the community by rail to the Canadian Pacific Rail Line for the shipment of iron ore and timber.
The Algoma Central head office is now located in St. Catharines, Ontario as the largest Canadian flag ship owner, with 32 vessels in operation.
The company’s railway was sold in 1995, but Algoma Central still owns Station Mall, the Station Tower and the Delta Sault Ste. Marie Waterfront Hotel.