BUILDING A SEAPORT
An Address by
ERNEST B. GRIFFITH, Q.C., B.COM. General Manager, Toronto Harbour Commissioners
Thursday, January 31, 1963
CHAIRMAN: The President, Mr. Palmer Kent, Q.C.
MR. KENT: It gives me great pleasure to introduce to you today a personal friend for many years, who has made a great contribution to the growth and development of our City in his position as the General Manager of the Toronto Harbour Commissioners.
Mr. Griffith was born and educated in Toronto. He is a Bachelor of Commerce and Finance from the University of Toronto, a member of the Bar in this Province and he was appointed a Queen's Counsel in 1959. He joined the Harbour Commission in 1940, then after service in the Canadian Army he re-joined the Board in 1945 as a solicitor and was appointed secretary in 1946. He has been General Manager since 1951.
The Toronto Harbour Commissioners were incorporated in 1911. It has five members, three of whom are appointed by the City Council, and two by the Government of Canada. One of the Government appointments is made on the recommendation of the Board of Trade. Since 1911, it has been their task to develop a valuable port here as well as the Harbour Commission lands adjoining the port, and also to operate the Island Airport. With the opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway, the value of this Port to Toronto and the surrounding area has increased to an extent that few of us realize in spite of living so close to it. The Port is a gateway to Canada's richest area with the country's largest concentration of population and industry.
Mr. Griffith is an expert in this field of Harbour development in Canada and the United States. He was the first Canadian President of the International Association of Great Lakes Ports. He will now tell you much more about this as he speaks on the subject: "Building a Seaport".
MR. GRIFFITH: It is a privilege and honour to have the opportunity of speaking today to your club and to have as my subject "Building a Seaport"-the story of the recent growth of the Port of Toronto. The Port is always grateful of an invitation to tell the public the story of its expansion to meet the new opportunities of the post seaway period. We welcome particularly an audience of businessmen, men who can route cargoes over the Port Docks, for since the new St. Lawrence canals were completed in 1959 it has become as important for us to "sell" the Port as it is for the Port to provide proper cargo handling facilities. And when such an audience represents businessmen dedicated to promoting the Commonwealth and with particular reference to the interests of Canada, I am sure you will realize how much the privilige is appreciated at this particular time in our history.
Our story goes back to a little further than the opening of the new canals in 1959. In fact we can start it prior to World War II when 2 lines-the Oranje and the Fjelloperated some 5 ships from overseas ports to the Great Lakes. This small service was, of course, suspended during the war and commenced again in still a small way after the cessation of hostilities.
At that time the impact of the overseas trade, an expression that must be used to differentiate from international trade which includes shipments to and from the United States of America and which made up the bulk of our Great Lakes trade, was not considered to be of major consequence on the Port's immediate prospects. This feeling was due to the indeterminable delays in reaching an agreement with our neighbours to the south on the construction of the new ,
St. Lawrence canals. The then existing canals restricted passage to ships 240' in length, 40' in width and with a 14' draft, a maximum carrying capacity of approximately 2,500 tons. The Toronto Harbour Commissioners during these years actively joined with the proponents of the "Seaway", as the new canals were to become known. Optimism and pessimism flowed in equal quantities and in frequent interchange, until the day the Canadian Government stated that it was prepared to build the canals alone.
Changes quickly took place. More lines and more ships entered the Great Lakes direct overseas business, some built to the specifications of the old locks but in such a manner that a new section could be put in the centre when the new locks were in operation. At Toronto the direct overseas trade went from 31,500 tons in 1950 to 288,000 tons in 1958, the last year when the small ocean ships had the business of the Great Lakes basin to themselves.
During this period those ports that wanted to offer the best service to their area, and capture a goodly share of this new business, started their expansion programmes. Unfortunately not too many started soon enough or built to reasonable expectations and some of the late starters badly overbuilt a situation that can cause as many problems as under-development. Fortunately, each area of the Lakes had a port with a progressive, sensible, business development programme.
In Toronto the timing of the Seaway was most advantageous. There was still space in the inner harbour, the area protected by the Islands, for new development and during the 1950's it was evident that your Port's lake trade was on the decline. Only Ontario Hydro's large shipments of coal for its new steam plant site in the eastern harbour section made cargo figures look constant in the mid-fifties. Our record year, prior to last year, was in 1956. In that year Hydro brought in nearly 600,000 tons and overseas tonnage was 165,000 tons. Oil was replacing coal for heating of homes and in certain instances commercially. Most oil products had started to move by pipeline and the expected competition from natural gas took place before the end of the decade. The importance of this change to the Port can be measured by the 1950 tonnage figures where coal and oil represented 2,600,000 of a total of 4,575,000 tons.
Thus, the new business of overseas trade came at a most opportune time and when a new total tonnage record was set for the Port last year, 5,489,194 tons, 1,031,885 tons of this figure represented overseas cargoes. In this period of growth the Toronto Harbour Commissioners constructed 4 large overseas terminals and provided 7 other new open berths for the larger ships, which now can measure up to 730', 75' in width, 251/2' draft and a carrying capacity of up to 20,000 tons. Included among these facilities is the Queen Elizabeth docks which Her Majesty graciously opened in 1959 after disembarking directly from H.M.S. Britannia.
A former coal dock has been converted to use by overseas ships at the east end of the Bay and appropriately named by the Commissioners after their first general manager-E. L. Cousins. The site for the next terminal to be constructed is ready on this same dock area. Negotiations have been underway for the next area of development for ocean ships -the docks being vacated by Canada Steamship Lines this year and which were preserved for Port use through the Commissioners' new by-law. Studies leading to further negotiations are near completion for the next area for development, and all within the present harbour. In cooperation with the Federal Government new dock walls have been constructed to serve the lands repurchased from the Consumers' Gas Company, creating a total of 3,000' of dock wall and a new dockage area.
Thus, the impact of the seaway, over 1 million tons, with the new facilities completely different from lake shipping has been taken within your existing harbour and postponing the time for the construction of a $60 million new harbour in the lake. The harbour board's policy is an economical and efficient use of the present area before embarking on the costly new harbour, with no natural protection.
Other facilities have been created and I would like to refer specifically to the Port's new 300 ton heavy lift. This gigantic crane, featured by so many transportation and engineering journals and recently one of a series of pictures painted for Fortune Magazine, has already proven its worth to heavy industry in southern Ontario. We now know it will fulfill the prime objective of the Commissioners in its construction, to help develop sales in foreign markets for heavy machinery manufactured in Ontario. It has already handled a first for one large company, electric generators for Great Britain. And if someone really wants to import that famous hippo, the Port of Toronto can guarantee to lift it.
Our overseas trade commenced as almost exclusively import. One of the main selling objectives of the Commission has been to increase export cargoes moving over the Port's docks. This not only helps stimulate the Canadian economy but also makes the Port's position in world trade much more stable as we come closer to a balance of imports and exports. It is our objective to keep closing the gap. You would be interested in knowing that in 1961 our trade over the docks with the United Kingdom was 100,000 import tons and 134,000- export tons-last year 90,000 import, 132,000 export.
Many changes other than in physical assets have also taken place. I have mentioned earlier that we are now salesmen, competing for trade with as tough competition as any industry. A Port development philosophy that created the bare requirements, land and dock, has changed to also providing the facilities for this overseas trade. A Port philosophy of operation that accepted no responsibility for the use of the lands and docks is replaced by one of responsibility to the area. New services have been provided such as radar, berthing masters, voluntary pilotage services. Operations of the terminals has been undertaken for the thousands of consignees using the Port, thus releasing the stevedoring companies to concentrate on the job at which they excel, loading and unloading of ships. In order to give the most to our trading area and thus obtain the greatest use of our facilities, your Port is now in the port business in its full sense.
An example of the change that has taken place in the Great Lakes area is the formation of the International Association of Great Lakes Ports. The founding of this association was conceived and developed by your port representatives. Any previous effort had foundered on the rocks of narrow interests and a lack of appreciation of the needs of the area. The Seaway gave proof that Great Lakes ports must work together or pass the opportunities to the well organized eastern seaboard which in the United States of America forms a strong and influential lobby, aimed at restricting any lakes development. And these American ports are our competitors too.
With the Growth of Port labour, commission and private, with the large increase in visiting sailors from foreign lands, with the advent of the big city status, many more intangible, but I suggest important, changes are taking place on your waterfront. The attraction to organized crime is great. Uncontrolled, as you may have seen in some other ports, the results are disastrous. Many steps have been taken to keep Toronto a clean port, supervision, restriction of liquor outlets, such as taverns, development of recreational opportunities and a co-ordinating committee. This committee made up of the Roman Catholic Church, The United Church of Canada, The Anglican Church of Canada, The Lutheran Church and the Jewish Community, co-ordinates the work of the churches on the waterfront, administering to the physical as well as the spiritual needs. Around this committee revolves the hope for a waterfront centre that will co-ordinate all the factors that are and will be so necessary to a proper, clean, bright future for this international port. The Commissioners are giving all support possible to this group to accomplish its noble and essential purpose.
The possibility of a world trade centre excites the imagination. Your port is now international, its present and its future will fluctuate with changes in international conditions and trade. Its role in the community will bear a direct relation to its contributions to Toronto's growth as a trading centre. Its progress will depend on its ability to fulfill this obligation. At present approximately one-third of our trade is with commonwealth countries, with, of course, the United Kingdom involved in the largest portion of such trade. We must watch with keen eyes the political and economic changes that are brewing particularly in the European Common Market. It is in the role of assisting in promoting international trade that your Port can, and to the best of its ability will, play its major economic role. Lower transportation costs result from use of your docks right in your own city area, without transshipment at another Canadian or American port. Modern efficient facilities are and will be economically operated. A stable, well trained labour force dedicated to Port progress is gradually being developed. However, we must be prepared to face whatever price is placed on reaching this goal through trade disruption from time to time. All efforts will be made to help exporters and potential exporters to be competitive in all foreign markets, including the Commonwealth and the European Common Market.
The future of your Port is an exciting one filled with greater opportunities than at any time in its 300 year history. These are opportunities for expansion, for trade development, for contribution to the growth of southern Ontario, for leadership in the introduction of human factors into a port's commercial enterprise. These all mean a Port community of which we will all be proud.
THANKS OF THE MEETING were expressed by Mr. Paul Mills, O.B.E., Q.C.