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New federal regulations worry deep-water port planners

Sault Ste.

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.”

Darren Taylor

About the Author: Darren Taylor

Darren Taylor is a news reporter and photographer in Sault Ste Marie. He regularly covers community events, political announcements and numerous board meetings. With a background in broadcast journalism, Darren has worked in the media since 1996.
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