It is very interesting to think about how the consumption of grain in China affects farmers in Alberta, Canada or how weather patterns in India will have repercussions on global wheat prices. This interconnectivity might be taken for granted by the general public, but not by the vast network of logistics professionals meeting the global supply and demand out of Canada’s Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Seaway. This past October 27 to 28 saw a gathering of experts in this field to network and exchange information to continually capitalize on this vital resource.
The name of the event was Highway H20, referring to the 3,700 kilometre “marine highway” that accesses Canada’s busiest commercial, industrial and agricultural hubs. Highway H20 includes the St. Lawrence River, the St. Lawrence Seaway and the Great Lakes.
This route has been a vital North American trade artery since before Canada or the U.S. were deemed nations. Today, this integrated navigation system serves miners, farmers, factory workers and commercial interests from the western prairies to the eastern seaboard. In fact, it is hard to conceive of a commodity that does not move on the Great Lakes Seaway System or an industry that does not benefit from its access. Steel, limestone, iron ore, grain, cement, salt, and cargo are all shipped daily through the trade route, which sees 200 million net tons move through its water annually. The seaway provides jobs for approximately 200,000 North Americans, and in the U.S. alone, more than $4.3 billion in personal income is generated by the system, and $1.3 billion in tax revenue.
Integral to shipping, the Highway H20 is strategically positioned to access 150 million consumers, a network of over 40 ports with intermodal connections and incentive programs for cargo. The System can handle multi-purpose ocean vessels, tug and barge units that handle diverse needs of international shipping companies.
From ship to store
The purpose of the conference and the amalgamation of industry experts was a two-day intensive to ultimately facilitate maximizing the System’s potential and to leverage the group’s accumulated knowledge on new and innovative services.
The conference consists of an alliance of transportation stakeholders in this region who promote the System both domestically and internationally. The conference opened with a speech from keynote speaker Brent Frederick, Associate Editor of Canadian Sailings, who spent 14 years working in the communications department of the Port of Montreal. Following that, Vice-President and Deputy Chief Economist of Scotiabank, Aron Gampel, addressed the crowd, giving an edifying talk on the worldwide operation of the Scotiabank Group of Companies and his perspective on the rapidly changing and challenging global economic landscape.
Gampel’s speech set the tone for the event, as it sought solutions for some of the logistic chain’s greatest problems. Issues such as how disruptions in the supply chain affect market share, strain budgets and reduce capital asset were addressed, along with updates on the state of the global market and the marine industry and how “strategic employment of the system assets will reveal growth prospects and future efficiencies for the customers.”
Harness the juggernaut
Brant Randles, President of Louis Dreyfus Canada, a world leader in processing and merchandising in the agricultural sector. having shipped tens of millions of grains and oilseeds through the St. Lawrence and Great Lakes ports, spoke of the relationship between traffic in the System and consumer demand in other parts of the world. Specifically, and with an eloquent and well-researched presentation, he enticed the audience to “harness the China juggernaut” and its appetite for soybean and warned if the logistics industry failed to do so, it could result in a “stagnant Great Lakes.”
The two-day event culminated on Thursday, October 28 with a think tank on the continual progression of the logistics field. The module focused on driving growth through the supply chain and new systems that would facilitate peak performance. The position of the seaway and its varied users as leaders in efficient modal integration, cargo safety, schedule reliability and cost reduction was examined, and solutions involving inventory optimization, warehouse logistics and facility location planning were considered by such experts as the President of Eckler Associates, Jim Eckler, Mike Owens, VP of Physical Logistics for Nestle Canada Inc. and Paul Osland, VP of Industry Relations for GS 1.
With over 130 logistics professionals working together to ensure that products meet their final destination, markets are supplied and companies keep producing, the H20 Highway will continue to be one of Canada’s most vital trade links. Manufacturing, energy, agriculture, mining and construction industries all rely on the Great Lakes St. Lawrence Seaway; whether it is something one ponders or not, there are leagues of people working diligently to promote this link to Canadian business.
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