Our Harbour

Divestiture of the Sarnia Harbour

Discussions began in the Fall of 2011 regarding the transfer of ownership and responsibility for the operation of the Sarnia Harbour from Transport Canada to the City of Sarnia. On March 28, 2014 the City of Sarnia and Transport Canada completed the divestiture of Sarnia Harbour. A set of divestiture documents were executed and a large Federal contribution was made to Sarnia to aid in the operation of the Harbour.


harbour photo

Sarnia Harbour

The Sarnia Harbour is strategically situated at the centre of the Great Lakes, on the St. Lawrence Seaway System. It is located at the south end of Lake Huron on the eastern shore of the St. Clair River, one of the busiest inland waterways in the world. Tankers, bulk carriers, self-unloaders, foreign vessels, tugs and barges constantly traverse this waterway, often referred to as the H2O highway. The harbour is comprised of lands and water lots collectively forming the Government Wharf and Warehouse Area, the East Dock and the North Slip - these three precincts represent the principal areas of the working harbour and are depicted on the accompanying maps.

Berthage At Sarnia Harbour

The berthage of vessels at the docks and wharfs in the harbour is a principle source of direct income for the Port of Sarnia. A great many of the vessels that use the Sarnia Harbour are part of the Great Lakes Fleet operated and maintained by a number of different large Canadian shipping companies, including such companies as Algoma Central Corporation, Canada Steamship Lines, and Lower Lakes Towing Ltd. Sarnia Harbour also accommodates many international vessels primarily at the Cargill docks for the trans-shipment of grains and other cargos to and from much of Southwestern Ontario.

harbour photo

Seasonal Berthage

In addition to winter berthage, Sarnia Harbour provides vessels with seasonal berthage for temporary layup or for emergency repairs that are routinely carried out on both upbound and downbound vessels during the regular shipping season. The transfer of personnel, stores, repair parts and repair squads by workboat to vessels en route is commonplace, as is temporary short-term layup when upbound vessels may pause to avoid severe weather conditions. Tugs berthed in the Government slip are also able to assist ship movements in the area. During a typical shipping season, it is estimated that between 60 to 80 vessels will regularly take advantage of the Sarnia Harbour facilities.

harbour photo

Winter Berthage

The strategic nature of the location of the Sarnia Harbour situated above the Welland Canal is demonstrated by the fact that late winter freeze ups and associated ice conditions enable commercial vessels to operate late into the shipping season after the St. Lawrence Seaway is closed, and still arrive to make a winter berth at Sarnia before local freeze up. Similarly, the early spring break-up of ice on Lake Huron and the St. Clair River enable the renewal of early cargo movements servicing ports located on lakes Erie, Huron, Michigan and the connecting waterways above the Welland Canal prior to the general opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway System. These operational advantages for the movement of cargo represent important commercial considerations and reinforce the advantages of Sarnia Harbour. The immediate availability of a large skilled labour force in the Sarnia area also strengthens the advantages of Sarnia harbour as a port of choice for ship repair and maintenance. During a typical winter season, 10 to 12 vessels will berth at the harbour for either winter layup or repair. Vessels scheduled for repair will locate along the Government Wharf or along the shore in the North Slip.

harbour photo

Ship Repair and Maintenance

Ship repair and maintenance is a major Sarnia industry providing many thousands of man-hours of work annually. Ship owners regularly schedule major repairs at the Sarnia Harbour to take advantage of the unique attributes of Sarnia Harbour, including its strategic central Great Lakes location, the immediate availability of a large local pool of highly skilled and readily available labour, and the ability to procure specialty equipment.

Ship repair and maintenance activities carried out at the Sarnia Harbour are an important component of the local Sarnia-Lambton economy. More than 125 local and provincial companies regularly supply services and materials to meet the repair and maintenance requirements of vessels berthed at the harbour, either for emergency repair or over the winter for planned maintenance and repair. These activities support the employment of a large number of local skilled trades that are well qualified to support the operation of the marine industry.

Central Machine and Marine Inc.

City of Sarnia
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