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HOPA partnership to establish Lake Ontario shipping corridor with the US

The Hamilton Oshawa Port Authority (HOPA Ports) announced an agreement with an affiliate of Beowulf Electricity & Data Inc (Beowulf), the U.S. owner of an expansive 1,800-acre site on the southern shore of Lake Ontario to create a bi-national, low-emission, short sea trade corridor.

The new partnership will forge connections between the Port of Oshawa, Ontario and a new port in Somerset, New York by establishing a multimodal shipping terminal at the former location of New York’s last coal plant, which retired in 2020.

In a Memorandum of Understanding, the two parties pledged to enhance the current $494 billion annual US-Canadian trade partnership by creating a new two-way trade route that would significantly reduce carbon emissions and border congestion from truck traffic by introducing a marine transportation option. The Somerset location is approximately 37 miles directly southwest of the Port of Oshawa.

“The creation of a new port-to-port connection with our most important trade partner clearly makes economic and environmental sense,” said Ian Hamilton, President & CEO of HOPA Ports. “Southern Ontario is struggling to keep up with the demand on its highways; the economic cost of congestion in the greater Toronto/Hamilton area is estimated to be up to $6 billion annually. Both regional economies will benefit from a cleaner, faster and more efficient maritime trade corridor.” While marine transportation is already the most environmentally efficient mode of transportation per tonne-mile, the short distance between the two partner locations sets the stage for future opportunities to explore the use of alternative-fuel vessels.

The Somerset site has been undergoing redevelopment since the closure of the coal plant in 2020 and has worked with the State of New York on its transition to a new economic engine for Niagara County and western New York. Making use of its existing energy infrastructure and nearby access to low-cost hydropower, a portion of the site is now home to the Lake Mariner Data facility, a high-tech campus focused on supporting various computational applications, including bitcoin mining, artificial intelligence and high-performance computing.

“Somerset’s promising future has long been anchored in its advantageous location along the shores of Lake Ontario, bolstered by valuable energy infrastructure and the exceptional quality of our local workforce,” said Paul Prager, CEO of Beowulf. “We are thrilled that HOPA has recognized these same qualities and sought to partner with us on this exciting transportation project.”

Work will begin immediately on a detailed market analysis of the cargoes currently moving cross-border by truck with an origin or destination point at each port. The study will develop the value proposition for a new marine service, including transportation cost savings and GHG reductions. While technical and market studies on a future Port of Somerset get underway, the port’s owner, Beowulf will work with HOPA and key stakeholders in both countries (including local, state, provincial and federal officials, regulatory agencies, and business groups, among others) to develop and make public a project plan and schedule for the Port of Somerset development, including short-, mid- and long-term milestones and deliverables, as well as potential management options for a new port. A traffic study on potential port scenarios at Somerset will also be part of the public process.

Based on projected trade demand, the partners believe that the Port of Somerset would develop over time to create hundreds of direct and indirect jobs in Niagara County and the Greater Buffalo area (stevedores, warehouse employees, freight forwarders, dockworkers, crane operators, vessel agents, dredging contractors, marine pilots, truck drivers and shipyard workers among others). The development will assist the State of New York in its commitment to transition the site of the State’s last operating coal plant into a new economic and regional trade hub with a vastly improved carbon emissions profile.

The partnership also enhances the Port of Oshawa and Durham Region’s role as a key connection point for Canada-US trade, supporting regional economic development priorities in manufacturing, agrifood and others.

“Niagara County’s location as a border community with Canada has always been a major focus of our efforts to drive economic growth and opportunity, and today’s announcement will unlock that potential and result in significant investment in our region,” said Becky Wydysh, Chairman of the Niagara County Legislature. “The fact that the port would be sited at the former Somerset coal plant is a tremendous reuse of that property and needed in a community that took a big hit in the loss of revenue and jobs when the coal plant closed.”

“This strategic partnership will be instrumental in strengthening Canada’s supply chain and trade corridors. A new port-to-port connection that offers a more streamlined movement of goods in and out of Ontario, through the Port of Oshawa, will reduce environmental impacts from road transportation and unlock greater supply chain efficiency for local businesses in Durham Region—helping our goods get to where they need to go,” said John Henry, Regional Chair and Chief Executive Officer for The Regional Municipality of Durham

“With this announcement, the great City of Oshawa further strengthens its position as the eastern gateway to the Greater Toronto Hamilton Area”, said Oshawa Mayor Dan Carter. “We’re excited to see this partnership and a new marine trade route that will establish Oshawa as a key connection point for Canada-US trade and bring with it numerous opportunities and investments.”

“Oshawa is a dynamic college university metropolitan city, strategically positioned just 37 miles from the Somerset, New York American shore of Lake Ontario, and competing globally to help propel our respective economies,” said Councillor Tito-Dante Marimpietri, Chair of Economic and Development Services for the City of Oshawa, and Vice-Chair of Public Works for the Region of Durham, “Establishing a new transportation corridor between Canada and the United States of America is an exciting opportunity to continue strengthening the over $494 billion annual US-Canadian trade partnership by creating a new two-way trade route that would significantly reduce carbon emissions while enhancing the Port of Oshawa and Durham Region’s role as a key connection point for Canada-US trade. We welcome this exciting and vital economic development initiative as an intelligent means to further support our collective industrial priorities in high-tech resources, manufacturing, agrifood and most essentially assist in creating hundreds more indirect jobs associated with the harbour communities of Somerset, USA and Oshawa, Canada.”

The MOU outlines specific goals for a new Port of Somerset including:Low Carbon Emission Profile/Reduced Dependency on Trucks; Sustainable Carbon Practices; Enhanced Supply Chain Resilience; Versatile Infrastructure Accommodating Diverse Cargo; Year-Round Operation; Redevelopment/Future Growth Opportunities on Brownfields; Strategic Investment and Growth in Niagara County and Upstate NY.