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Cement operations returning to port

Port authority: New cement biz won't repeat early 90s "fiasco"

McInnis Cement is looking to use two recently retrofitted domes at the Oshawa Port for cement storage. Once work is complete, the company will be able to store up to 14,000 tonnes of concrete at a time, with up to 60 trucks a day going through. The Oshawa Port Authority says this new enterprise will not be a repeat to Chieftain, which used the now-closed Oshawa Marina, and frustrated residents with excessive dust and other issues. (Photo by Joel Wittnebel)

By Joel Wittnebel/The Oshawa Express

The Port of Oshawa will soon have a new tenant, with McInnis Cement looking to begin operations using portions of the port’s east wharf starting later this summer.

The company began construction on the east wharf location in February, as it looks to retrofit a pair of existing domes to include a cement unloading system for arriving vessels, along with a truck loading station.

According to Donna Taylor, the harbourmaster and president/CEO of the Oshawa Port Authority (OPA), the latest operation is going to be state-of-the-art.

“The product will travel in a brand new, specially designed ship and be offloaded into the domes with, again, brand new specially designed equipment to ensure minimal noise and emissions,” she says.

“The two Oshawa Port Authority domes are being somewhat retrofitted by this company, in their existing position, to accommodate the transfer of product from ship to dome and dome to truck pneumatically.”

For Mayor John Henry, who learned about the operation through a council-directed meeting with the Port Authority earlier this month, the operation does not call for much concern and mostly involves the storage of cement, but wouldn’t say much more.

“It’s their business and they’re working on it, so I can’t really comment on this,” he says. “I’m not overly concerned about that.”

However, in a release from McInnis, it notes that the domes will be able to store 14,000 tonnes of concrete combined and, once retrofitted, the operation will be able to accommodate up to 60 trucks per day.

“McInnis has identified the eastern portion of the continent as its target market. Terminal locations were selected based upon the accessibility to efficient waterways to leverage its water-based transportation advantages and high-population metropolitan areas to minimize the number of truck miles to their customers,” a news release from the company reads.

The operation will be primarily served by the NACC Quebec, a vessel chartered by McInnis through the St. Lawrence Seaway.

According to McInnis’ website, the cement will come from a plant in Port Daniel – Gascons in Quebec, with other distribution points at the Ste. Catherine port just south of Montreal, as well as in New York and Rhode Island.

The incoming operation may bring back some dirty memories of the last cement operation, which drew the ire of those previous tenants of the now-closed Oshawa Marine due to problems with dust and other issues.  Those operations ceased in 1991. Prior to that though, reports from the time detail how dust from the operation at the port was found on cars a mile away from the waterfront. Port officials at the time claimed the dust did not come from the cement operation. However, Lakeview Park was described as “dust bowl” and the issue was eventually pegged on Chieftain, the company running the operation, which failed to install a vacuum system ahead of its unloading operation.

“This is a much more sophisticated and environmentally friendly operation than our previous cement-handling fiasco,” Taylor says. “The OPA learned a lot from that experience and peer reviewed an environmental  report on the handling processes to assure ourselves of its compatibility with current port operations.”

The same assurance was shared by Henry.

“They handle grains down there in the fall months where they move grain onto barges and they’ve done that very well when they’ve had the right equipment in place,” he says.

“I’m sure they’re doing everything they need to do to make sure everything is right.”