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Infrastructure investments drive HOPA cargo trends

(Posted on 27/02/24)

HOPA Ports has released results for the 2023 navigation season, reporting a combined total cargo of 11,293,179 metric tonnes (MT) through the ports of Hamilton and Oshawa. The 2023 total was a 9% increase from 2022, marking the second-highest volume in the past decade. The season saw a total of 665 vessels, with 603 in Hamilton and 62 in Oshawa, taking advantage of the longest ever Seaway shipping season.

Commodities transiting the Ports of Hamilton and Oshawa represent approximately 30% of total cargoes transiting the Canada-US Great-Lakes Seaway system. HOPA’s cargo totals rose by 9% in 2023 versus a 3.38% increase in system cargo as a whole.

“Commodities fluctuate year-to-year driven by market and other external forces that are often beyond our control; that’s why we are focused on future trends. Our investments in trade-enabling infrastructure, and those of our tenants and partners are the engines of longer-term performance,” said Ian Hamilton, President & CEO of HOPA Ports.

Over the past 15 years, HOPA and partners have invested close to $1 billion in transportation infrastructure and terminals that have enabled the steady growth of key commodities. This trend continues with the recent announcements of a $135 million sugar refinery, a new rail container facility, a new flour mill, and HOPA capital works for 2024 exceeding $40 million.

In 2023, agri-food commodities through the Ports of Hamilton and Oshawa reached a combined total of 3.5 million MT, an increase of 5% over 2023. Agri-food represented 31% of total HOPA cargo in 2023, compared to an agri-food total of 18% in 2013, and just 10% in 2009. This growth has been driven by major investments in agricultural-related terminal infrastructure. Over the past 15 years, the port has attracted $500 million in new investments by agri-food companies, including grain handling terminals, fertilizer terminals, and Ontario’s leading mid-size brewery. HOPA kicked off 2024 by announcing even more agri-food investment, in the form of a new flour mill, to be constructed by Parrish & Heimbecker, and a new sugar refinery, to be constructed by SucroCan.  

“Food processing is a $4.8 billion sector in Ontario, and we’re delighted to be providing the key ingredients to grow this sector further, in the form of the location and logistics solutions that food manufacturers need,” said Hamilton.

At the Port of Oshawa, plans for a new grain export terminal are now underway. “We hope to have shovels in the ground in the coming months to enhance export capacity for grain grown in Durham, Kawartha and other GTA-east grain producing regions. The new export terminal is expected to be ready for the fall 2024 harvest,” said Hamilton.

Steel and steel-making commodities had a stellar year in 2023, exceeding 6.2 million MT, a 13% increase compared to the previous year.

HOPA continues to invest in capacity for the value-added steel-related manufacturing supply chain. In 2023, construction of a $10 million, 60,000 sq ft rail transload facility for steel products proceeded on-track. This facility, to be operated by NSD Warehouse & Distribution and supported in part by the National Trade Corridors Fund, will make new connections between transportation modes and add more than 100,000MT of new steel handling capacity at the Port of Hamilton.

Cement, asphalt and aggregates led the cargo mix at the Port of Oshawa in 2023. “These commodities are critical to infrastructure, housing and manufacturing – everything we need to keep our regional economy humming,” said Hamilton. “It is our job to make sure we have the supply chains in place to move these essential goods reliably and efficiently.”

HOPA continued to advance its Niagara Ports strategy, which now encompasses more than 600 acres of industrial space in Niagara. In 2023, three new parcels of land were transferred by Transport Canada to HOPA management: two at the Thorold Multimodal Hub and one in Port Colborne, creating more opportunities for businesses to locate and grow as part of HOPA’s Great Lakes port network. The Thorold Multimodal Hub welcomed its 20th tenant in 2023, and the Hub was awarded a Canadian Urban Institute ‘Brownie’ Brownfield Redevelopment Award for its innovative approach to repurposing a legacy industrial site for modern uses.

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