Toledo competes for container shipping businessWritten by Duane Ramsey | | email@example.com
The Port of Toledo has an opportunity to become part of the increasing business of trans-shipping containers from seaports inland to the Great Lakes region, Collister “Terry” Johnson Jr. said in his keynote address at the Ohio Conference on Freight that took place in Toledo Sept. 17 and 18.
Johnson serves as administrator of the Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation for the U.S. Department of Transportation. He cited the need for having an economical method for trans-shipping cargo containers inland from Canadian seaports such as Halifax and Montreal.
“We are looking at using the Seaway to move containers on specially built ships, based on the European model, so shipping by water could be more economical,” he said.
Such container ships would be built to travel the St. Lawrence Seaway to haul cargo containers inland to ports such as Toledo. The Seaway is too small for the larger cargo ships presently bringing goods to North America.
Johnson said about $1 billion is currently being spent to build seaway-size ships, primarily in China, for Canadian carriers. Those ships could be used to transport cargo containers through the Seaway and Great Lakes region.
He anticipates an increasing number of entrepreneurs looking to invest in the growing global container market that can be utilized by the Seaway and Great Lakes system.
Johnson said there is a trust group of investors from Toledo that is interested in becoming financially involved in container shipping on the Seaway.
Warren McCrimmon, seaport director for the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority, said a potential group of investors for container shipping is in the formative stage with initial meetings taking place. The response to the concept has been well-received by those contacted, he said.
“Toledo has superior inter-modal connections for shipping by air, rail, highways and as a seaport,” McCrimmon said.
Toledo wants to become part of that container shipping business, but there is some public policy work to be done to make it happen, Johnson said.
The Bush administration supports the repeal of the harbor maintenance tax to promote this “short-sea shipping,” Johnson said.
The effort is not to repeal the Harbor Maintenance Tax Act, but to have the act waived in circumstances where there is congestion at border crossings between the Great Lakes provinces and states such as the crossings between Detroit and Windsor. The transport of containers and other qualifying cargos, except bulk, by maritime rather than rail or truck would relieve that congestion to some degree, McCrimmon said.
“The federal tax impacts of such a waiver are so miniscule as to be negligible and of no material consequence,” McCrimmon said. “We support the waiver request.”
Toledo is discussing possible ferry services with proponents and there is real potential for the Port of Toledo and its surrounding region to benefit from such services being established, he said.
U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur supported the passage of a bill that allocated $135 million for improvements to the Seaway. Johnson said President Bush has not taken action on the bill, and it is unclear when it will become law.
Johnson said the funds are needed as potential assets since “the Seaway has not received attention for a long time.” He said if funding becomes available, it would be used for buildings, paving, dredging, new technology and work on the actual locks.
A joint study of the St. Lawrence Seaway being conducted by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and its Canadian counterpart is expected to be completed by the end of this year. Johnson said it will look at the engineering, economic and environmental status of the Seaway and offer recommendations for its future.
Johnson also told the audience at the freight conference that Americans will be seeing more public/private partnerships in transportation as the trend continues across the country.
Johnson cited the privatization of the Chicago Skyway by the City of Chicago and the Indiana Turnpike as examples of private/public partnerships.
“What works are programs and projects that have strong political leadership at the top,” Johnson said. “It’s really important to make sure it happens.
“Private/public partnerships provide opportunities to reduce capital or operating costs, with a strong economic story to be told,” he said.
In the past, Johnson worked with government and private enterprise to develop partnerships in the shipping and transportation industries.
About 200 persons attended the Ohio Conference on Freight.