Escape from Hamilton

The old man was all in a panic, “I need engines now, were going to anchor”.

“Relax. What’s the rush; were already at anchor” I replied.

Turns out, we had an opportunity to escape from the confines of Hamilton Harbour, where we had been trapped, unable to leave for nearly a week. Hamilton has been the backdrop of few “end of civilization” films without much effort, but its really not that bad. The people who are able to talk to real people are actually pretty nice – Snake Plissken would probably fit in very well.

So get to the point, you say…

Well ok, you see Hamilton Harbour is a bay on the western tip of Lake Ontario, in Central Canada, there is a major highway at its mouth therefore choking it to a narrow channel, spanned by two bridges. The main highway out of Toronto, south, is the QEW and it has its own bridge over the mouth of the bay. Twining it,is an older lift bridge, that when lowered over the narrow entrance of the harbour, makes a pretty nifty blockade tool for any vessel with an air draft more than ten feet.

The most defining aspect of Hamilton Harbour is the massive steel mills; one belonging to ArcelorMittal (formerly Dofasco) and the other, US Steel (formerly Stelco). The employee at the US Steel mill are on strike, and they are not too happy that raw materials from the mill’s property are being loaded on foreign ships, bound for US Steel operations in the US deep south.

So, for nearly three days they have been camped on the bridge, preventing the bridge operators from lifting it safely, and therefore blockading the harbour, trapping ships inside, and out. The Harbour Authority requested courts to provide an injunction on the protest, which they were quoted has having cost over one million dollars. The injunction was given on late Friday evening.

Although we were not specifically delayed, since we had no cargo ready for us, the charterer insisted we escape for the steel clutches of the harbour at first opportunity. And so last night around 19:30, we steamed out in procession with other vessels, while several others waited outside their turn to proceed into the harbour.

Never a dull moment at work. That was that day’s highlight. Now, we are due to sign off in a few days; my relief will be happy with the short commute, as we will be anchoring at the mouth of the Welland Canal, near St Catherine’s, where he lives. I, on the other hand I am hoping a planned labour strike at Air Canada, the only airline serving my home airport, does not materialize.

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