While the first commercial shipment arrived at Fort Rouille (the Fort at Toronto) in 1749, it took another 44 years for the town of York (since renamed Toronto), and its shipping port to be established. Since then the Port of Toronto has been governed by the province of Upper Canada, the Toronto Harbour Trust, the Toronto Harbour Commissioners and now the Toronto Port Authority doing business as PortsToronto.

Shipping through the Great Lakes changed dramatically in the early 1800s with the rise of steam-powered vessels and the first Lake Ontario steamship, which launched in 1816. More changes came with the opening of the Beauharnois and Williamsburg canals, in 1845 and 1849 respectively, allowing travel through the waterways from Montreal to Lake Ontario. When the railroads arrived in the 1850s, the port truly became an intermodal hub for the transportation of goods.

Over the next 100 years the Port of Toronto would continue to grow and change to meet the needs of the city and the shipping industry. 1861 marked the first Beaver Hat ceremony to celebrate the arrival of the first vessel into the Port of Toronto. Initially given to the captain of any vessel that reached port first, the Beaver Hat is now awarded to the captain of the first ocean-faring vessel.

In 1918 the headquarters for the Toronto Harbour Commission was completed at 60 Harbour Street, and in 1929 the Shipping Channel Bridge was officially opened. With the opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway in 1959, shipping through the Great Lakes system became easier than ever.

Now serving primarily as a bulk cargo destination, the Port of Toronto continues to boast a seamless network of cost-effective intermodal links to road, rail and air transportation that ships to destinations around the world. In addition to moving cargo, the Port also welcomes cruise ships and passengers from around the globe through the Cruise Ship Terminal which first opened in 2005.

For 225 years the port has served as a unique and crucial piece of infrastructure for the city of Toronto. In 2017 the Port of Toronto celebrated its best year in more than decade moving 2,172,750 metric tonnes of cargo through the port.

IN 1750      
Fort Rouille (known as Fort at Toronto) trading port is established. It was the last French post built in Southern Ontario, and it was established by order of the Marquis de la Jonquière, Governor of New France.
First recorded commercial ship brings cargo to Toronto, then known as Fort Rouille (Fort at Toronto) which was located where the C.N.E grounds are today, near the wind turbine.
The fort is destroyed by its garrison in July 1759 so that it does not fall into British hands.
King of England is conveyed a tract of land on the north shore of Lake Ontario by the Chiefs of the Mississauga Nations. Known as the “Toronto Purchase.”
Canada is divided into Upper and Lower Canada, and Colonel John Graves Simcoe is appointed Governor of Upper Canada.
The Town of York is founded and the province of Upper Canada begins governing the port.
Town of York has a population of 456.
Construction begins on Gibraltar Point Lighthouse, first lit in 1809.  It was built to guide ships into the harbour of York (Toronto) and is the oldest existing lighthouse on the Great Lakes, and one of Toronto’s oldest buildings. The structure is made of Queenston limestone and was hauled in by ship. Its bright light shone 14 miles out into Lake Ontario for more than 150 years, until it was replaced by an electronic beam in 1958.
Launching of first Lake Ontario steamboat Frontenac.
First improvements made to navigation on the St. Lawrence River system-series of canals constructed to avoid the Lachine Rapids west of Montreal. Vessels with 5-foot draft are accommodated and small boats can gain access to Lake Ontario for the first time.Port-of-Toronto-Activity-225-years-2-1800.jpg
First Welland Canal, bypassing Niagara Falls, opens with series of 40 locks, each 8 feet deep.
Town of York has a population of 9,254. and it was renamed to Toronto, a Europeanized version of the original Native American name for the region.
In 1838 there was no passageway to enter the harbour at its eastern end (today’s Eastern Gap did not exist), so the western entrance was the sole channel for ships entering or departing the harbour. Years later, in 1861, a small lighthouse “Little Red” was built on Queen’s Wharf to guide ships into port past the sand spit. One of the precursors to PortsToronto —the Toronto Harbour Trust—operated the light as part of its responsibility for safe navigation within the Port of Toronto. Its lamp was fueled by whale oil and shone as a red beacon to approaching vessels.

Original Lachine Canal widened and deepened.
Board of Trade begins campaign for the Commissioners of the Harbour of Toronto (Harbour Trust) to have jurisdiction over the harbour area.
Beauharnois Canal opens.
Williamsburg Canal opens. Direct navigation between Montreal and Lake Ontario becomes possible.
Five Harbour Commissioners appointed to manage the harbour with the creation of the Harbour Trust. This begins a period of divided ownership and control of the harbour with Commission, City, railroad and other private owners.
Railway Age dawns in Toronto as Ontario Simcoe and Huron Railway, as well as the Grand Trunk and Great Western Railways, commence service from Toronto’s Waterfront.
Second Welland Canal opens—27 locks, each 9-feet deep.
Eastern Gap becomes additional, permanent harbour entrance.

First Beaver Hat ceremony is conducted at the Port of Toronto .The antique top hat used in the Beaver Hat Ceremony originally belonged to Captain John Hooper Meade. He immigrated to Canada from England in 1828 and donated the hat made by Christy’s Hats of London to mark the arrival of the first saltie in 1861. Meade’s grandson, Captain John Allen, was Toronto’s Harbour Master from 1925 to 1930.
Queen’s Wharf lighthouse erected at old Western Channel.
The Waterfront Esplanade is completed.

Breakwater constructed to protect Toronto Island.
Third Welland Canal opens with 26 locks -14-feet deep.
New Western Channel completed.
Toronto Harbour Commissioners Act passed by Federal Government and receives Royal Assent.
Toronto Harbour Commissioners (THC) present overall plan for the waterfront. Old piers cleared, water lots filled creating the current harbour profile, Toronto Islands enlarged, eastern Port Lands created with fill, and beaches developed east and west of the harbour.
Toronto Harbour Commissioners enlarges the Toronto Islands to create recreational space for Torontonians.
Toronto Harbour Commissioners builds the Quays that extend into the Toronto Bay, now known as Corus Quay (1959), HTO Park Quay, Eireann (formerly Bathurst) Quay (early 1920s), and others.

Toronto Harbour Commissioners complete construction of 60 Harbour Street.

Terminal Warehouse opens at York Quay.
Toronto Harbour Commissioners completes construction of Toronto’s first civil air harbour and commercial seaplane base at the foot of Yonge Street where the TorStar parking lot is now located.
Railway viaduct officially opens. This opens up the waterfront to north-south traffic that was previously blocked by at-grade railway tracks.
Toronto Harbour Commissioners completes the Ship Channel Bridge.Port-of-Toronto-Activity-225-years-1929.jpg
Fourth Welland Canal opens, permitting large upper lakes vessels of 25-foot draft to reach Lake Ontario. The new deep-water canal in the first year of full
operation accounted for a 64 per cent increase at the Port of Toronto.
Giant bonfire and 100-bomb salute on the Port’s western sandbar mark 100 years of the City of Toronto and 100 years of harbour activity.
Canada passes act establishing the St. Lawrence Seaway Authority for construction and operating.
Wiley-Dondero Act signed into law by U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower, authorizing an American agency to build the navigation facilities on the U.S. side of the St. Lawrence Seaway, supporting the Canadian commitment made in 1951. Construction begins on the St. Lawrence Seaway.Port-of-Toronto-Activity-225-years-8-1930.jpg
Toronto Harbour Commissioners Marine Terminal 11 (later renamed to 27) opened. It was the first of three 100,000-square-foot warehouses.

CARE officials at the Port of Toronto stand shipside as milk cargo is loaded onto the vessel. CARE was founded in 1945, when 22 American organizations came together to rush lifesaving CARE packages to survivors of WorldPort-of-Toronto-Activity-225-years-9-1955.jpgPort-of-Toronto-Activity-225-years-9-1933.jpg
War II.

The Toronto Harbour Commissioners new marine derrick-No.50, was put into operation, capable of lifting 50 tons and doing double duty as a bucket dredge.

St. Lawrence Seaway opens, providing ocean freighters with 27-foot draft access to Great Lakes ports. Dutch freighter MV Prins Willem George Frederik (pictured below) is first vessel to reach Toronto on April 27, after opening the new waterway. That season marked a new record for tonnage for the Port of Toronto.Port-of-Toronto-Activity-225-years-19592.jpg
Queen Elizabeth Docks (MT 28 and 29) officially opened by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip.Port-of-Toronto-Activity-225-years-1959.jpg

Dominion Sugar Company (Redpath Sugars) refinery opens on west side of Jarvis Street Slip.
The Toronto Harbour Commissioners begins creation of the Leslie Street Spit, to create seawalls that would protect the planned new harbour. The plan would later change to make this a mixed-use aquatic park and wildlife refuge.
With increased activity in the harbour, radio clearance of ships entering and leaving the port was initiated, coupled with a connection to Transport Canada’s teletype (today, electronic communications and global positioning satellites).
In the 1960s, a revolution in shipping patterns accrued as the container gained popularity with shippers, cargo sheds in the central harbour were at capacity, leading the Toronto Harbour Commissioners to establish new marine facilities—The E.L Cousins Docks in the Port Industrial District—named after the first Toronto Harbour Commissioners general manager, featuring a 140,000 square-foot warehouse.Port-of-Toronto-Activity-225-years-1964.jpg
300-ton Atlas crane installed at E.L Cousins Docks.
The Toronto Harbour Commissioners Tug MV William Rest is launched at Erieu Shipbuilding Yards.
In 1963, an extension to the Ship Channel opened, adding 2,500 feet of new dockage.
Fireboat William Lyon MacKenzie launched at Owen Sound, commissioned by Toronto Fire Dept. on May 15, 1964.
Toronto Port Police formed.
Marine Terminal 51 opens at Ship Channel entrance.
Marine Terminal 35 became the busiest terminal in the harbour handling as much tonnage as moved through the entire Port in 1961.
Container Distribution Centre (CDC) and Warehouse 52 (MT 52) open at the East Gap. The full range of container handling equipment, bonded warehousing, interface with road and rail transport. MT 52 offered 125,000 square feet of inside storage space, as well as a 108,000-cubic-foot-freezer room and a 56,000-cubic-foot-cooler room for specialized cargoes. Container traffic at CDC Torport peaked in the late 1970s, about the time MT 35 became the dedicated container terminal for the Soviet shipping line Morflot and partner CP Rail.

The Eastern Gap becomes the official main entrance to the harbour for shipping after it is dredged to Seaway depth and additional navigational lights installed.
Roll-on/Roll-off berth established at Eastern Gap (MT 52).
In the late 1980s, Marine Terminal 35 had evolved into a busy, mostly container based operation. In this period, both CP Rail and CN were investing heavily in the intermodal “land bridge” facilities to compete directly with marine shipping companies for the overseas container shipping market.
Toronto Port and Harbour Police merge with Metropolitan Toronto Police.
Harbour serves as venue for celebration of Toronto’s 150th birthday. Queen Elizabeth II visits on the Royal Yacht Britannia.
Intermodal operation initiated at Marine Terminal 35.
The Toronto Harbour Commissioners cedes 640 acres of waterfront land to the City of Toronto and TEDCO.
Through the 1990s, traffic at the Container Distribution Centre shifted more to land-based containers, through the activities of its major tenant CP Rail and the trucking firm Highland Transport.
Canada Marine Act comes into effect on June 11, 1998, and establishes the Toronto Port Authority, now PortsToronto.
Toronto Harbour Commissioners transitions to the Toronto Port Authority under the Canada Port Authority Act.
The Honourable Lisa Raitt becomes the first female Harbour Master of a Canadian port.
2005   Port-of-Toronto-Activity-225-years-16-2011.jpg
The Port of Toronto International Marine Passenger Terminal opens.
The Port of Toronto loaded six 80-tonne Electromotive locomotives aboard the Jumbo Line’s MV Daniella. Three of the locomotives are bound for the Port of Newport in Wales, UK, for use by British Rail and the other three are bound for Rotterdam for use in the Netherlands.
Toronto Port Authority celebrates centenary.Port-of-Toronto-Activity-225-years-17-2016-(1).jpg
Toronto Port Authority celebrates the 150th Beaver Hat Ceremony at the Port of Toronto.
Toronto Port Authority
re-brands as PortsToronto.
The MV Iron Guppy officially comes into service replacing the MV William Rest, which was built in 1961. PortsToronto launched a contest to name the tug. Students from Toronto’s Waterfront Elementary School harnessed their creativity and put together a long list of nearly 70 names.
PortsToronto celebrates the 155th Beaver Hat Ceremony at the Port of Toronto.

The Port of Toronto, one of Canada’s largest major inland ports, is situated on the northwest shore of Lake Ontario. Located minutes from Toronto’s downtown core, the Port of Toronto has served as Toronto’s gateway to the St. Lawrence Seaway and to marine ports around the world since 1793.
Serving primarily as a bulk cargo destination, the port boasts a seamless network of cost-effective intermodal links to road, rail and air transportation, serving as a unique and crucial piece of the city’s economic infrastructure. In addition to moving cargo, the Port also welcomes cruise ships and passengers from around the globe through the Cruise Ship Terminal.
In addition to its economic impact, imports through the port have a positive impact on the environment and traffic congestion. In 2017 approximately 54,000, 40-tonne trucks were taken off Toronto’s already congested roads and highways through cargo being moved by ship. The Port of Toronto is a vital connection to the world, not only boosting tourism and trade, but also helping to lower Toronto’s carbon footprint.
Port of Toronto welcomed more than 5,600 cruise ship passengers via the cruise ship terminal.
Port of Toronto records best shipping year in more than a decade with close to 2.2 million metric tonnes of cargo passing through the port.
The Port of Toronto welcomes Cinespace Film Studios to Marine Terminal 51 and the Cruise Ship Terminal.
The 157th Beaver Hat Ceremony to welcome the first saltie of the Shipping Season.

The Port of Toronto is also home to over 50,000 bees in summer, located on the roof of the Warehouse Terminal 52. Our four urban hives are maintained in partnership with
Alvéole and are in close proximity to pollen-rich vegetation and
green space—not to mention having the best views of the City.Port-of-Toronto-Activity-225-years-20-bee.jpg
The Port of Toronto holds a Green Marine Level 4 status in sustainability and is on the path towards a Level 5-which are indicators of leadership and excellence.

Film and Television
The Port of Toronto has welcomed many film and television productions over the years, including; The Strain, Transporter, Nikita, Police Academy, Saw 2, Shadowhunters, Minority Report, The Hulk, Beauty and the Beast  and The Shape of Water.
The Cruise Ship Terminal has also been a major filming location for the past several years. Areas of the Cruise Ship Terminal have served as everything from police station to downtown apartment building and has been a regular filming location for CBC’s The Border.
In 2017, PortsToronto was proud to welcome Cinespace (The Shape of Water, A Handmaids Tale) to transform the Port of Toronto Marine Terminal 51 into a Port Lands Studio Space.

Boaters Notice

PortsToronto is responsible for keeping the Toronto Harbour safe and navigable. See Boater’s Notices about everything from swimming in the harbour to obtaining permission for a marine event.

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A Power Vessel Operator’s Permit is required to operate a powered vessel in the Port and Harbour of Toronto.

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