Sault Ste. Marie MP Bryan Hayes shares City Council’s concern over proposed new regulations for Canadian Great Lakes freighters.
As reported earlier by SooToday.com, Sault Ste. Marie Mayor Debbie Amaroso and City Council recently approved a resolution aimed at making federal Transport Minister Denis Lebel aware of the City’s concern over new regulations, which could, if passed, have a heavy financial impact on Great Lakes shipping and on the Sault’s economy.
The proposed federal regulations, which are considered far more restrictive 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.
Because of that enormous cost for shipping companies, it is felt by Council that Great Lakes shipping would decrease as a result, affecting Sault Ste. Marie’s plans for a much-needed deep-water port for local industry.
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).
Opponents of the proposed changes say such machinery is necessary only for ocean-going vessels, but costly and unnecessary for Great Lakes freighters.
Speaking to SooToday.com, Hayes said: “I share Council’s concern. I would not support regulations of that caliber for Great Lakes freighters. I’ve already spoken with Minister Lebel’s department to get an update where things are at. It’s still very, very early in the process of determining what the ultimate recommendations are going to be.”
The proposed new regulations have been driven by the International Maritime Organization (IMO), a specialized agency within the United Nations with 170 member states.
Transport Canada’s national consultative body, the Canadian Marine Advisory Council, was given the task of seeking input from industry stakeholders on the implications of the regulations if they came into effect.
That process ended at the end of March.
“Industry Canada is now going to look at the results of this and once they’ve gone through everything we’ll have a better sense of things... they are going to take into effect everything the stakeholders have had to say,” Hayes stated. “I think it’s premature to determine the end result will be the forcing of these regulations upon Great Lakes freighters. I feel confident that all these types of things will be considered before the government would ultimately pass legislation like that, and I will be speaking with Minister Lebel.”
Hayes noted similar legislation was proposed by the state of New York in 2012, but concerns raised by many, including City Council and himself, forced New York to reconsider.
On another matter of great local interest, Hayes said the $44 million set aside by the Harper government in September 2009 for Sault Ste. Marie’s new Bridge Plaza project is still safely put aside.
With inflation since the 2009 announcement factored in, it is estimated construction costs have gone over $50 million.
If extra funding is needed when shovels finally go into the ground for the Bridge Plaza, Hayes said he will go to bat for whatever extra funding is needed.
"I will say we need more funding, or a downgraded project, and I’ve always gone on record that we don’t want a downgraded Bridge Plaza for Sault Ste. Marie. We know there’s infrastructure money in the budget.”