Marc Garneau and Pat Sayeau. Van Dusen photo

Markus Haerle
Van Dusen photo

JOHNSTOWN – Cumbersome, manually manipulated loading spouts that slow the process at Port of Johnstown during an era when time is of the essence are being replaced thanks to a pre-election federal government grant of $4.8-million. the investment is intended to increase handling efficiency and ensure the port can grow as a strategically located major export gateway for Eastern Canada’s agricultural producers, said Transport Minister Marc Garneau who delivered the news personally Aug. 6.

Once a federal port and elevator, the Johnstown facility was downloaded several years ago to Edwardsburgh-Cardinal Township which has been making upgrades as money permits. The federal funds will allow replacement of nine aging loading spouts dating back to the 1930s; four self-supporting spouts with extended reach for larger vessels will do the job. The existing spouts were designed to load canal vessels which sat low in the water; today’s ocean-going freighters sit much higher.

“Loading of the very first ship this year was delayed by over six hours, as the captain was forced to take on ballast water to get lower so we could get the old spouts over the side and into the holds,’’ E-C Mayor Pat Sayeau recounted, adding the spouts must be moved manually generating complications that “ripple throughout the entire supply chain.’’

As part of the project, a new grain bin will be added to eight 5,000-ton bins already in place, increasing storage capacity; during construction, about 100 regional jobs will be created. There was no indication of how the federal election set for Oct. 21 might impact the timeline.

In his comments to guests gathered in the blazing sun alongside the elevator – speakers were covered by an awning – Sayeau specified the port complex provides more than 1,600 farms with access to global markets. The time has come, he said, to replace aging ship loading infrastructure to maintain the ability to fully serve the region’s farmers.

Thanks to the National Trades Corridor Fund, the mayor indicated loading efficiency will be increased by 60 per cent, storage capacity by 10 per cent, congestion will be reduced, and exports will continue to grow.

Grain Farmers of Ontario president Markus Haerle, a port customer for more than 20 years, welcomed the news explaining that loading and shipping speed is paramount in today’s tough competitive world troubled by trade wars and tariffs. That’s even truer this season with shortages of beans, corn and wheat in Eastern Ontario likely because of dry conditions which have stunted many fields depending on specific location.

A St. Isidore grain and chicken producer who is also vice-chair of Grain Growers of Canada, Haerle observed that when the municipality first took over the port complex, mistakes were made; however, in intervening years, the port management team has become quite adept at operating the service and has been making the right improvements.