To see the port in your community you must
look beyond the harbourview and to the business of ports. Canada's
major ports are truely economic engines and gateways
Modern seaports have become critical nodes within
a complex system of logistical and industrial centres. Many changes
have taken place in the globalization of markets, production and
consumption forcing ports to meet new challenges. Ports must be
competitive in all they do to become 'ports of call' on international
and domestic freight routes.
Canada’s Major Ports:
What They Are
Canada’s major ports have a legal designation
under the Canada Marine Act as Canada Port Authorities (CPA) and
consist of 18 Port Authorities known as the National Ports System.
These Port Authorities were designated as being ‘critical
to domestic and international trade.’ These 18 ports handle
more than half of all Canadian marine cargo at approximately 311.5 million tonnes annually, valued at more than $400 billion dollars.
Canada Port Authorities were created by an Act of
Parliament in 1998 under the Canada Marine Act (CMA), providing
an overall governance structure for the management of Port Authorities
with important local governance and control.
The key elements of the new, autonomous structure
1) requiring these new Authorities to be fully ‘commercial’
and completely ‘self-sufficient’ with no further funding
from the Government of Canada; 2) setting strict borrowing limits
for Port Authorities with operations funded solely from the CPA’s
stream of revenues with no ability to pledge assets to borrow; and
3) requiring Port Authorities to provide a portion of their gross
revenues to the Government of Canada’s general revenue fund.
Key Transportation Corridors
The marine industry functions are multi-faceted, and
each coast has a unique component of both domestic and international
marine transportation sectors supporting key transportation corridors.
Canada’s port system provides critical infrastructure linking
the movement of goods by water to important landside services including
critical connections to road and rail.
The Great Lakes/St. Lawrence inland waterway system
from the Atlantic Ocean to the heartland of the United States is
an important trade corridor serving 15 major international ports
and some 50 regional ports on both sides of the Canada/U.S. border.
The Great Lakes and St. Lawrence region specialize
in bulk carriers, self-unloaders and tug/barge units related to
domestic dry cargo movements and a fleet of small tankers handle
Within the St. Lawrence region a full range of ship
sizes and types serve international trade from container ships to
crude oil tankers.
In the Pacific region, tugs and barges serve the domestic
workhorses, whole bulk carriers and container ships dominate international
trade with Asian countries.
Atlantic Canada supports some domestic trade with
international vessels that are of considerable importance to import
and export traffic.
Trade and Commerce
Exports of goods and services account for more than
40 percent of economic activity in Canada. Almost 75 percent of
the value of Canada’s trade is with the United States and
this trade has grown rapidly since the North American Free Trade
Agreement in 1994.
It is estimated that foreign trade sustains one out
of every four Canadian jobs.
Marine transportation accounted for almost a fifth
of the volume of Canada’s exports to the United States and
over 95 percent of the approximately 180 million tonnes of commodities
and processed goods Canada exports to other countries annually.
The marine industry plays an important role in Canada’s
domestic trade and is the mode of choice for many important bulk
commodity movements, including the grain, iron ore and coal transported
between Great Lakes ports; the crude oil shipped from the Terra
Nova oil field off Newfoundland’s coast; and forest products
shipped from northern to southern B.C. ports.
Domestic marine trade amounts to 70 million tonnes
annually and accounts for 20 percent of total marine traffic via
the Great Lakes/St. Lawrence Seaway.
Canada’s merchant fleet consisting of dry bulk
carriers along with tankers, general cargo vessels and ferries handles
most domestic traffic. The marine sector is also a significant provider
of passenger transportation services.
The cruise industry continues to grow in all regions
of Canada with more than 2 million foreign cruise passengers handled
by Canada’s major ports annually.
The Business of Ports
After the vessel has docked, stevedores and marine
terminal operators arrange for the dockworkers to load and unload
the ships. Local ship chandler firms provide supplies to the vessels,
and local shipyards make repairs when needed. Other firms provide
maintenance and repair services to the trucks, cargo handling equipment,
containers, and chassis serving the port.
Support industries include freight forwarders who
arrange for further transport of the cargo; customs brokers who
assist in clearing the import cargo; and warehouses and distribution
centers that are located off-dock where cargo can be stored and
also processed. There are also government agencies that inspect
cargo and provide safety and health inspection.
The marine terminals serve as the intermodal connector
where foreign trade changes transportation modes between land and
water transit. Different types of cargo pass through different types
Cargo may be stored in warehouses, in grain elevators,
in petroleum and chemical tanks, or in open storage areas such as
those used for automobiles, steel structures and containers. Some
perishable cargos such as frozen meats and poultry and fruits and
vegetables, require temperature-controlled warehouses.
The ports system is the only economically feasible
method for handling the export of raw materials, grains, most manufactured
products and perishable cargoes.
If the maritime transport component of the
logistics system fails, not only are port industry jobs lost, but
also the entire export-related economic sector suffers.
The National Ports System, with its connections to
the highway and rail system, is vital to importers, including importers
of certain consumer goods as well as importers of raw materials
and manufactured products. Without the efficient port system and
accompanying inland delivery system, imported consumer goods such
as clothing, electronic goods, and seasonal fruit would not reach
The shopper at the local market does not have a sense
of how his basket of goods came to be. It came via a complex logistical
chain of events that begin at the first point of entry to our country,
In 2003 the marine transportation system contributed
$9.1 billion (at market prices) in Canadian production and generated
an estimated 93,000 jobs.
Water transport creates wages exceeding the average
for all industries at 136 percent for all industries and 178 percent
of earnings in the Canadian trade sector according to Statistics
Canada. The high earnings reflect the relatively high productivity
of workers in the marine sector.
Increases in labour productivity benefited from developments
such as the mergers and consolidations in the industry, the increase
in port mechanization and the trend towards larger vessels.
The marine sectors impact on both taxes and benefits
served to increase federal government revenues in 2003 by up to
$2.5 billion and provincial government revenues by up to $2.6 billion.