PortsToronto celebrates 162nd annual Top Hat Ceremony with the arrival of the first ship of the season

Toronto (April 3, 2023) – A sure sign of spring’s arrival, the first international ship of the 2023 shipping season has arrived at the Port of Toronto. Early today, PortsToronto “crowned” Captain Vyacheslav Tykhonov of the MV Andean with an antique top hat – first presented in the spring of 1861– at the annual Top Hat Ceremony. For the past 162 years, PortsToronto has celebrated the official opening of the commercial shipping season by crowning the captain of the first ocean-going vessel or “saltie” to arrive at the port.
PortsToronto President and CEO, RJ Steenstra “crowns” Captain Vyacheslav Tykhonov of the MV Andean during the Port of Toronto’s 162nd annual Top Hat Ceremony.
The Port of Toronto moved a record 2.3 million metric tonnes of bulk and general cargo products in 2022, its highest recorded cargo levels in 18 years. This record year in marine imports highlights the important role the port plays in Toronto’s economic infrastructure. Overall, 191 cargo vessels visited the Port of Toronto in 2022, delivering a range of bulk, project and general cargo products totalling 2,346,724 metric tonnes. In addition, 40 passenger cruise ships carrying more than 12,000 passengers visited PortsToronto’s Cruise Ship Terminal last year. The year 2023 is expected to be another record-breaking cruise ship season, with 54 ships expected to call between May and October, bringing more than 22,000 passengers to Toronto to enjoy all the city has to offer.
“The Top Hat Ceremony is a 162-year old tradition at the Port of Toronto, marking the annual opening of an essential transportation network that provides Canadian and international businesses with a convenient, sustainable and cost-effective way to bring goods into the heart of the city. Longstanding traditions such as these are a reminder how the port plays an important role in our national supply chain and Toronto’s economic infrastructure.” said RJ Steenstra, President and Chief Executive Officer of PortsToronto. “PortsToronto was thrilled to host the ceremony aboard the MV Andean to welcome its Captain and crew to the Port of Toronto.”

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 first ship was given $100 in a briefcase, and the top hat, which served as the “key to the city’ for a 24-hour period enabling the captain and crew to eat and drink for free. The same top hat, now 162 years old, is used today, although measures are taken to protect and maintain it so it can be used for years to come.
Originally begun as a celebration of the first ship to enter the harbour each year, the annual tradition now celebrates the arrival of the first ocean-going ship of the season, also known as a “saltie.” This year the first ship was the MV Andean which arrived in the Port of Toronto from Corinto, Nicaragua with over 19,000 metric tonnes of sugar for the Redpath Refinery. The annual ceremony also celebrates the commencement of the 2023 shipping season.

About the Port of Toronto
The Port of Toronto is one of Canada's inland ports and is situated on the northwest shore of Lake Ontario. Located minutes from Toronto's downtown core, the Port provides a seamless network of cost-effective intermodal links to road, rail and air transportation, serving as a unique and crucial piece of economic infrastructure. Marine cargo arriving and managed at the Port of Toronto generated $377.7 million in economic activity and 1,566 jobs in Ontario in 2017. Port also welcomes cruise ships and passengers from around the globe through the Cruise Ship Terminal. Take a virtual tour of the Port of Toronto to learn about the important role the Port plays in Canada's transportation network as well as the environmental benefit of marine transportation. Learn more here about the important role the port plays in Toronto’s economic infrastructure for both tourism and trade. 

About PortsToronto
For more than 100 years PortsToronto has worked with its partners at the federal, provincial and municipal levels to enhance the economic growth of the City of Toronto and the Greater Toronto Area. PortsToronto owns and operates Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport, which welcomed approximately 2.8 million passengers in 2019; the Outer Harbour Marina, one of Canada's largest freshwater marinas; and the marine Port of Toronto that includes businesses in a variety of sectors including marine shipping, cargo services, media production and passenger cruises. PortsToronto is committed to fostering strong, healthy and sustainable communities and has invested more than $14 million since 2009 in charitable initiatives and environmental programs that benefit communities along Toronto's waterfront and beyond. PortsToronto operates in accordance with the Canada Marine Act and is guided by a board with representation from all three levels of government.
About Redpath Sugar
Redpath Sugar Ltd, who markets and sells sugar products in Canada under the Redpath brand, is a part of ASR Group, the world’s largest refiner of cane sugar. Redpath Sugar has been headquartered in and operating on the waterfront in Toronto, Ontario for more than 60 years where it crafts quality sugar products for consumers, food service outlets and food manufacturers throughout Canada. The company also operates a dry blending and packaging plant in Belleville, Ontario. This location co-manufactures major retail brands and private label products, such as sweetened iced tea, hot chocolate, and other sugar containing products for Canadian and export markets. Redpath is proud to provide more than 275 jobs in Canada.
Media Contact:
Jessica Pellerin
Manager, Media Relations and Public Affairs
Cell: (647) 298-0585
E-mail: jpellerin@portstoronto.com