Beaver Hat Ceremony

Since 1861, the Beaver Hat Ceremony has celebrated the arrival of the first ocean-vessel to reach the Port of Toronto. In 2021, the M/V Federal Hudson won this honour as it journeyed from Maceio, Brazil to the Port of Toronto to deliver 22,741 metric tonnes of cargo to Redpath Sugar’s refinery, marking the beginning of the shipping season.

Historically, the Captain of the first “saltie” or ocean-going vessel to arrive at the Port of Toronto is crowned by the Harbour Master with a 200-year-old beaver and silk top hat at the Beaver Hat Ceremony, a tradition that has spanned 160-years.

Appropriate precautions were taken to ensure that this longstanding tradition could safely take place. Captain Kumar participated in the ceremony from the bridge of the MV Federal Hudson while PortsToronto Manager of Harbour Operations, Michael Riehl, remained on the dock wall.

Early records show that the Port of Toronto’s first Harbour Master, Hugh Richardson, initiated the idea to entice ships to bring building materials into the harbour as early as possible each year, allowing Toronto—then a burgeoning city—to start its building season. The hat itself is also an object of lore. Legend has it that the beaver hat acted as a twenty-four hour key to the city for the captain who wore it, bringing about merriment and complimentary drinks wherever they went.

The Port of Toronto is one of Canada’s major inland ports and plays an important role in Canada’s transportation network and the Toronto economy, allowing for the delivery of salt and sugar, as well as concrete, sand and other goods needed to support the city’s booming construction industry, directly into the heart of the city.

Learn more about how the Port of Toronto serves as a gateway to the world, for both tourism and trade, here.