ports toronto cargo

An astounding 2.2 million tonnes of cargo moved through Toronto's port last year

If you've ever taken a stroll along Toronto's waterfront, maybe had a night out at Rebel nightclub (or one of its predecessors) or a visit to Sugar Beach, you've undoubtedly come across the massive lake freighters that move cargo in and out of Canada's largest urban centre.

Shipping takes many forms, with cargo aircraft, freight trains, and trucks transporting goods around the region, but when it comes to moving heavy masses of raw materials, large freight vessels that can transit the St. Lawrence Seaway and Great Lakes locks systems are still the most cost-effective solution out there.

Imported materials including cement, steel, sugar and salt moving into Toronto ports surpassed 2.2 million metric tonnes for the fifth consecutive year in 2021, with 190 cargo vessels in the city last year. The total of 2,295,815 metric tonnes delivered marks a four per cent increase from 2020.

But just what do 2.2 million tonnes of cargo look like in relatable terms? It turns out it's a pretty difficult weight to quantify with even the largest of artificial objects, as even the single-tallest freestanding structure in the western hemisphere is merely a fraction of this weight. You'd need to break down 18.65 CN Towers worth of material to reach that colossal volume of material shipped.

If you're still struggling to visualize just how vast this quantity is, here's another comparison. If you collected all of the approximately 1.1 million cars in Toronto as of 2014, you'd still be about 232,000 cars short of the weight of cargo that flowed through the city's ports last year.

So how did this incredible mass of materials break down? A considerable contribution came from cement cargo and steel imports, which soared to 19 and 18-year highs, respectively, with more than 734,000 metric tonnes of cement and 185,000 metric tonnes of steel supplying the wave of construction transforming the city.

Whether it was all the pandemic home-baking projects or our reliance on calories as a source of comfort, sugar imports from Central and South America were way up, 572,683 metric tonnes of the sweet stuff keeping the city's food and beverage industries supplied through hard times.

Countering all that sweetness, 583,425 metric tonnes of salt also arrived at city ports last year.

There were a few big 2021 deliveries that you may have already heard about, with three bridge spans arriving from Nova Scotia to connect the new Villiers Island with the city's road network.

And that's not all that's arriving in Toronto, with Geoffrey Wilson, CEO of PortsToronto, stating that "while the Port of Toronto will continue to play an essential role in our national supply chain in 2022, it will also play an important role supporting Toronto's tourism sector as we anticipate hosting a record 37 cruise ships in 2022, including a number of new cruise ships designed for expedition cruising on the Great Lakes."

Lead photo by


Latest Videos

Latest Videos

Join the conversation Load comments

Latest in City

Global's parent company Corus cutting hundreds of jobs in huge round of layoffs

Toronto is the top Canadian city for Americans looking to relocate

Here's what the next generation of TTC subway trains will look like

We raced to see if walking is faster than taking the TTC King streetcar in Toronto

This predatory Ontario animal looks like a creature from Stranger Things

Toronto's Joker is being trolled after getting busted by police while on TikTok live

Huge share of Toronto residents confused by enormous or missing water bills

Toronto intersection will fully close for entire week and the timing couldn't be worse