New energy is being channeled into the Welland Canal by major government investments in Port Colborne and St. Catharines.
In 2023 alone, the Government of Canada has invested major millions in building up new capacity at the Canal. In Port Colborne, the government is investing up to $22.7 million to repair three key wharves, part of a $45.3-million capacity-building project. And in St. Catharines, an investment of $5.2 million will develop 11 acres of land and improve port areas used for handling cargo.
“It will be a benefit for the city (of Port Colborne). It will allow us to put to work land that isn’t being used right now,” says Gino Becerra, Ontario Vice-President of QSL and partner with Snider Terminals at the Port Colborne site.
The Port Colborne investment will repair Wharf 18, covering three dock sites on the west side of the Canal. The dock was decommissioned years ago due to needed repairs, said Becerra. Repairing it will allow Port Colborne to handle cruise ships that currently have to dock on the east side of the Canal, where Snider Terminals handles materials like salt.
The repairs will allow tourists to disembark and directly access downtown Port Colborne, rather than landing on the opposite side of the Canal. It will support and augment the existing cluster of shops and restaurants built up along West Street, helping to strengthen existing businesses and create opportunities for new investors.
Once fully developed, Becerra said Wharf 18 will feature one cruise berth and two for warehouses. He estimated the tourist improvements could employ 50 people, with an additional ten to 20 on the warehousing side. The work would also create spinoff jobs in the community to support the new inflow of tourism.
In St. Catharines, the work at Port Weller will improve cargo-handling areas and develop new land to support a cement trans-loading facility. The work, phase two of the Port Weller Dry Docks Cargo Terminal Project, is being funded through the National Trade Corridors Fund.
The upgrades are a boon for Heddle Marine, the drydocks’ current operator. The company is partnered with Stubbe’s Cement, the main beneficiary of the upgrades. Because Heddle manages the quay side of the property, they have a cargo handling agreement with Stubbe’s.
“We’re generating business through cargo movements,” said Ted Kirkpatrick, Heddle’s Director of Business Development and Government Relations.
“There’s a lot of land that was being underutilized that we’re going to be able to reclaim.”
The investment builds on work already done to build capacity at the site. Dredging was undertaken on the quay side of Port Weller, expanding it to be able to handle massive Seawaymax ships, with the lion’s share of the private funding provided by Stubbe’s. The work created a lot of material that must be removed from the site, but the benefits are clear: Ships can move to and from the shipyard more easily, and it can handle vessels with a deeper draft.
“The Government of Canada’s support of the National Trade Corridors Fund is enabling Canadian businesses to be more competitive in the global market while maximizing efficiencies for local users,” Steve Martin, Director of Sales and Business Development for Stubbe’s, said in a May media statement.
Kirkpatrick, of Heddle, says there’s more work to be done, but Heddle is grateful that the government has invested in strengthening the Canal’s capacity.
“I think the Seaway system as a whole has more capacity to offer,” he said. “I think there’s a lot of underutilized land up and down the Canal that could be leveraged.”
This article is part of a feature series highlighting the importance and impact of the Welland Canal Corridor and the businesses that operate on and around it. This feature series is provided by the economic development offices of the Canal communities of St. Catharines, Welland, Thorold and Port Colborne.
Photo from Heddle Shipyards
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