Picton Terminals, County jockeying prior to August court date

Picton Terminals has run afoul of the County's Bylaw department. The port operation was charged in early May for unapproved usage of lands for the storage of sea containers. (Submitted Photo)



A court date and subsequent trial later this summer will likely decide the future of container transhipment at Picton Terminals.

But until then, it appears jockeying between the County of Prince Edward and the current operator of the former Bethlehem Steel Iron Ore transfer port will continue.

The appearance of around 40 shipping containers at Picton Terminals earlier this spring has drawn the ire of local residents and the County’s By-Law Enforcement Department.

County spokesperson Mark Kerr confirmed to the Gazette By-Law Enforcement  issued an order to ensure  the Picton Terminals property is brought into conformity with the relevant zoning bylaws.

However, if those municipal bylaws are even applicable to a port operation that would be under the guise of a federal entity appears to be the crux of an upcoming court case where the two parties will square off.

“The municipality remains committed to ensuring that all properties are in compliance with the relevant by-laws,” Mayor Steve Ferguson says. “The issues related to operations at Picton Terminals are an ongoing source of frustration. We will continue to defend the municipality’s legal position while also striving to arrive at resolution that provides a path forward.”

Picton Terminals was largely successful when the environmental advocacy group Save Picton Bay took the business to court over allowed usages at the site which contains a cobbling of  different zoning designations including MX1 that were decided in the late 1980’s under the township system.

In 1978 when the Marmoraton Mine stopped producing iron ore brought to the port via train and then shipped all over the world, the port became a transfer site for bulk sodium chloride used for winter driving application.

Massive amounts of road salt would start piling up atop the cliff face in the summer time and should be trucked to salt domes and municipal facilities all over eastern Ontario.

The Doornakamp Family purchased the port around 2012 and has been operating as a non-conforming entity, taking transhipments of goods including calcium chloride, petcoke and bauxite among other materials.

Picton Terminals has flirted with other concepts to help increase marine traffic at the port including a cruise ship dock and potentially taking on a contract with Waste Management that would have seen large containers of garbage stock piled at the site and subsequently taken by barge to a large incinerator near Oswego, New York.

While these plans appear to have become non-starters for Picton Terminals, turning the site into a transfer station for sea container shipment seems to be the new path forward although it remains unclear if the new business is legal under the current County bylaws.  

Or if those bylaws even apply.

Originally, Picton Terminals applied to the County to have its property rezoned to allow for the transshipment and open storage of cargo containers, and did so by trying to have the Council change the definition of “Transshipment” to include “bulk commodities” and “containers.”  In the application’s Addendum, the new proposed definition was floated. 

 “The following definitions shall apply to the permitted uses of the site:  a) ‘Transshipment:  means the shipment of goods or containers to an intermediate destination, then to another destination, and may include bulk commodities such as iron ore, aggregate, farming and steel products, bio-mass, scrap steel and barrels together with any use or accessory use.”

According to multiple news reports, the Doornekamp Shipping Company business plan is to create an international seaway shipping gateway for Quinte businesses and beyond at the Picton Terminals site on the north cliff face of Picton Bay.

Ben Doornekamp said at the time he was moving to acquire two large cargo freighters that can move Quinte manufacturing goods by sea around the world.

An expansion of Picton Terminals included retrofitting the site to store up to 2,300 sea containers to give the facility through-put capacity for industrial and commercial goods arriving and leaving the port on Doornekamp Shipping vessels as well as independent vessels from around the world.

Council wound up denying that application and Picton Terminals made movements to appeal that denial to the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal but then, in October, 2021, reversed course and stated it would continue to operate under provisions granted the port under federal laws and regulations governing sea ports and marine activities.

Upon pulling its appeal, the company said in a statement that “all ports in Canada are regulated by the federal government. The Canadian Constitution separates the powers of the federal government from those of the provinces. Shipping and navigation is a power wholly within the jurisdiction of the federal government. What this means is that the province has no jurisdiction to regulate the activities of a port.”

Picton Terminals and The County of Prince Edward are expected to be before a Justice in Ontario’s Superior Court in August.

Multiple email inquiries by the Gazette to Picton Terminals and Doornekamp Construction were not returned.