Welland Canal 189th Shipping Season Begins

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The first day of spring and the opening of the Welland Canal shipping season. The first down bound vessel to open the season at Lock 8 was the Tugboat Calusa Coast with the barge “Delaware”. The captain of the Tugboat Gary Kafcsak ceremoniously accepted the Top Hat and opened the canal for the189th year.

The day started with a Fair Trade Pancake breakfast at 8am with locally sourced pancakes, Bodner’s sausages, Agape Valley maple syrup, Bremfield’s baked goods, Level Ground coffee, Fair Trade tea and hot chocolate. McKay Public School teacher Amber Minor and three students also spoke about the importance of Fair trade and what the City of Port Colborne is doing to support the Fair Trade partnership.

As Port Colborne was celebrating the opening of the canal, our neighbours to the north in St. Catharines at Lock 3 were also celebrating the first upbound vessel.

Dann Marine Towing owns the Tug Calusa Coast, which is part of a fleet of 22 ocean and coastal tugboats as well as inland push boats. Dann Marine Towing is a fifth generation family owned and operated tugboat company based in Chesapeake City, MD. The fleet operates on the US East Coast, Gulf of Mexico, Caribbean, and South America, as well as the on the Great Lakes.

The Delaware is owned by Kirby Corporation of Houston, Texas and are a vast inland marine division, which operates 230 active towing vessels, 876 inland tank barges and has over 4,000 employees. They are the largest domestic tank barge operator in the United States transporting bulk liquid products throughout the Mississippi River system on the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway, along all three US coasts and in Alaska and Hawaii.

Alan Caslin, Regional Chair said, “this is a great place to be in the south. It is an important day because it is the opening of the canal.” The canal is 28 miles that join Lake Erie to Lake Ontario. “We recognize the canal not only as an economic boost for Niagara, having all of the ships come through here with all of their loads. It is a great history for Niagara, it is an economic driver for the region and also great for tourism. Everybody knows the Welland Canal.”

“The canal is part of our environment here and often we take it for granted. We wish them a happy and prosperous 2017 shipping season.” stated Bryan Ingram for Vance Badawey MP.

“The welland Canal is an incredible engineering feat. Going over and under the canal.” said Mike Haines on behalf of Cindy Forester MPP. “The tradition of the canal carries on. A link that boost the economy here in Niagara.”

April Jeffs, Mayor of Wainfleet, said “today we celebrate the important contribution the canal makes to the economy and the recent investments made by the seaway.”

Jim Wheeler, Seaway Manager of Niagara helped celebrate the opening of the 59th navigation season and the 189th year of operation. “Marine transportation has played a significant role in building this country for centuries. Since completion of the last seaway in 1959 the canal has moved 3 billion tonnes of cargo with an excess value of over $400 billion dollars. As the season gets underway we are optimistic that the cargo volumes will be up above the 35 million tonnes from last year.” Wheeler stated.

Port Colborne Mayor John Maloney wished to thank the Pocomar Marine Rescue Facility, and those in attendance today, Andrew Watts, Debbie David, David Johnson, Zack Taylor.

The ceremonial top hat is over 100 years old, beaver felt fur, turn of the century hat from London England. “This year to honour the 150th anniversary of confederation we have added a new item a ceremonial tuxedo scarf with the 150 Canada emblem on it. This scarf will now be a part of ceremonies for years to come,” said Port Colborne Mayor John Maloney. Kafcsak also signed the guest book and was presented with a top hat of his own to keep.

Kafcsak said “I appreciate everything that the canal service in Canada has done for us, keeping us working, keeping product moving. it is a very well maintained canal. I’ve been all over the world and its a big honour to do this. I’ve told all of my friends at home how beautiful this part of Canada is and they should come up here to visit. It is one of the pretties places I’ve ever been in the world. Just remember whenever you drive on a nice road you can think of us!”



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