Transport from St. Lawrence port of antenna for new WTC highlights Canada project cargo activity
Leo Ryan, AJOT
Project cargo activity is alive and expanding in Canada following stalling caused by delays in financing of some ventures in the energy and mining sectors requiring heavy equipment going back to the 2008-2009 recession. The uptick is perceptible in ports across the country that are devoting rising attention and investments in this promising niche sector.
Following a voyage from Valleyfield via East Coast waters covering 1,600 miles, the large antenna segments destined for the new WTC are pictured during transport on the Hudson River against the spectacular backdrop of the Manhattan skyline.
Certainly worthy of special mention is the recent shipping of antenna segments from the Port of Valleyfield on the St. Lawrence River destined to crown the post 9/11 World Trade Centre in New York. The end result will be the elevation of the new WTC into the tallest structure of the Western World.
This is thanks to the arrival by barge in Port Newark in late November of the nine largest segments of the massive steel spire that will serve as an antenna on top of the WTC. Nine smaller additional sections were shipped by truck.
Upon final installation slated to be completed by March, the antenna will raise the height of the WTC to about 1,776 feet – thus surpassing Chicago’s Willis Tower (1,450-ft high).
The sections of the spire were supplied by Quebec-based ADF Group, a North American leader in the design, engineering, fabrication, and installation of complex steel structures. The sections ranged in weight from five tons to more than 67 tons.
The cargo had departed on November 16 on a barge, the Witte 1407, pulled by the Atlantic Salvor tugboat of Donjon Marine. The shipment proceeded through the St. Lawrence River and the Gulf of St. Lawrence and along the East Coast to Port Newark, prior to transfer to Lower Manhattan. From its New Jersey headquarters, Donjon Marine operates a large fleet of tugs, barges, dredges and hopper scows.
“The biggest potential challenge we faced was the time of year on the North Atlantic, but we were lucky with the weather and the journey of some 1,600 miles went smoothly,” recalled Steven News, senior vice-president of Donjon Marine. “At one point, we thought we might have to stop at Canso off the coast of Nova Scotia, but we were able to sail without delays along the East Coast right down to New York,” he said in an interview.
“Valport’s crew became very thrilled when it was determined that we would provide services for the tower,” said Frank Dunn, president of Valport Marine Services, which handled the stevedoring.
“The project in the physical sense was smallish compared to some of the mining and other capital projects we normally cater to, but this one touched a nerve – we all remember where we were when 9/11 happened,” he said, referring to the terrorist attacks on the United States in September, 2001 that claimed more than 2,700 lives in the former Twin Towers.
“We are humbled by the small role that we played in the moving of this landmark in the shadow of the men and women that lost their lives during this heinous event,” Dunn said.
“We also take particular pride in the fact that the sections were manufactured right on port property, a couple of hundred metres from dockside. These units had to be manipulated to an upright position and prepared for loading onto the barge. Given the time of the year and routing, special emphasis had to be taken to secure the cargo for safe passage. This took a lot coordination between the design engineers, the carrier and our team of stevedores.”
Robust energy sector outlook
Meanwhile, according to the Canadian Wind Energy Association, Canada’s wind energy industry enjoyed another strong year in 2012 following record investments exceeding C$3 billion in 2011. Wind farms are sprouting up in eastern and western parts of Canada, despite rising criticism in some instances by residents or neighbouring agricultural farms over their visibility and constant “humming” noise.
There is resurging growth in conventional oil production in Western Canada as well as new oilsands investments in northern Alberta, says the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP). The latter sees Canadian crude oil production more than doubling by 2030 to 6.2 million barrels per day.
“Canadian oil is clearly on the global stage and this forecast growth will put Canada in the top three or four oil producers in the world,” affirms Greg Stringham, CAPP’s vice-president, markets and oilsands.
As for mining, the Conference Board of Canada is bullish on long-term prospects in vast areas in the country, notably northern British Columbia, Quebec, Ontario and certain Arctic regions.
Maurice Vezina, executive vice-president of freight forwarder Gillespie-Munro, anticipates continued expansion in project cargo activity. The company’s business is currently concentrated in Northern Quebec and Northern Ontario mines and in pipeline projects in Western Canada.
For its part, Albacor Shipping has been coordinating project cargo movements for the aerospace industry in Quebec, for the oilsands in Alberta, for the automotive sector in Ontario. To cater to demand, Albacor opened an office in Edmonton, Alberta in 2011.
Jan Beringer, president of Calgary-based Rohde & Liesenfeld Canada, reports a big increase in the handling of project cargos to foreign locations as opposed to “just in and out of North America.”
Ports Gear Up for Growing Business
Amongst Canadian ports on the Great Lakes, the Port of Hamilton, a centre of increasing industrial activity, is continuing to benefit from its strategic location. The autumn of 2012 alone witnessed shipments of windmill components, liquid tanks and heavy equipment.
A heavy lift ship berthed at the Port of Hamilton loads process towers destined for a Mississippi power plant.
A highlight of fall project cargo activity involved four enormous process towers manufactured by Hooper Engineered Vessels International (HEVI), situated at Pier 26 of the Port of Hamilton. They were loaded aboard a heavy lift ship, the Stellaprima, destined for delivery via the Port of Mobile, Alabama to a Mississippi power plant under construction.
Also in the heart of Ontario’s manufacturing region, the smaller ports of Toronto, Windsor and Oshawa are engaged in rising project cargo activity.
At the tip of Lake Superior, the Port of Thunder Bay is reaping dividends from a vital addition: the new mobile harbor crane that has markedly enhanced cargo-lifting capacity since last summer.
“We are getting regular calls from the specialized project carriers and are now receiving inquiries on oilsands-related projects after a lull in this area,” said Tim Heney, President and CEO of the Thunder Bay Port Authority.
For several years now, Thunder Bay has benefited from a rapid, direct delivery rail network to Fort McMurray, Alberta launched by CN.
In the Atlantic provinces, the Port of Saint John is seeking to develop opportunities in such green energy resources as wind and tidal power projects.
In this connection, the awesome tides of the Bay of Fundy (said to be the world’s highest) are destined to be harnassed to produce tidal energy. For this project, a massive tidal turbine – the first of five – was handled recently at the Port of Saint John.
The port has excellent facilities to accommodate project cargo. This includes a 45,000-sq. ft. warehouse, 45-ton gantry cranes and an 18-acre open pier.
Over the past few years, too, the Port of Halifax has been handling a wide range of project cargo. Major shipments have comprised telephone poles, equipment for the oilsands and wind turbine components.
A current C$73 million project is underway to enhance Richmond Terminals at the Port of Halifax. The piers and shed space are being extended to provide more laydown area and berthing options for breakbulk and bulk cargo.
On the West Coast, moving through Fraser Surrey Docks of Port Metro Vancouver is project cargo destined for the oil, gas, mining and exploration sectors in Western Canada. Bill Wehnert of Fraser Surrey Docks foresees just more growth characterizing business in the coming years.