Toronto-U.S. Ferry Service Subject Of MarAd Study

Rising fuel costs, highway congestion and the growth of trailer traffic across the Niagara River border have created an opening for trans-lake ferry service between Toronto, Ontario, Canada, and Rochester, N.Y., according to a recent study commissioned by the U.S. Maritime Administration (MarAd).

Examining the feasibility of a trailership operation between the two ports, the report noted that more than 600,000 trailers—about six million tons of cargo—traveled the overland route in 1973, and this figure is now approaching one million trailers.

The authors of the study, Booz, Allen and Hamilton Inc. of Bethesda, Md., found that a significant portion of the current truck traffic could use the proposed waterborne service. The cross-lake run would shorten the distance between Toronto and Rochester by 75 miles, allowing the ferry service to be cost competitive.

Toronto was selected for the purposes of the study because the city is the Canadian terminus for much of the Niagara frontier traffic.

According to Ken Closs, traffic chief for the Toronto Harbour Commission, "This kind of operation could bring far-reaching financial benefits for the entire waterfront community in terms of cargo-handling charges, customs and packaging services.

"In all probability," Mr. Closs added, "it could be a year-round service, since Lake Ontario rarely freezes over during the winter months." The study considered three vessel variations for the trans-lake operation — conventional roll-on/ roll-off craft capable of carrying up to 58 standard 40 or 45-foot trailers, a specially designed barge pushed by a tug (80 trailers), and a towed barge (140 trailers).

The lowest capital commitment corresponded to the ro/ro ship, which also had the lowest weekly capacity. Fixed costs on a per trailer slot basis f a v o r e d the towed barge. But the integrated tug-barge, with twice daily sailings from each port, offered the best service and highest weekly cargo capacity (1,920 trailers).

Maritime Reporter Magazine, page 22,  Feb 1980

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