About the Sarnia Harbour

The Sarnia Harbour is strategically situated at the centre of the Great Lakes, on the St. Lawrence Seaway System. It is located at the south end of Lake Huron on the eastern shore of the St. Clair River, one of the busiest inland waterways in the world. Tankers, bulk carriers, self-unloaders, foreign vessels, tugs and barges constantly traverse this waterway, often referred to as the H2O highway.

The harbour is comprised of lands and water lots collectively forming the Government Wharf and Warehouse Area, the East Dock and the Cestar Dock – these three precincts represent the principal areas of the working harbour and are depicted on the maps below. On March 28, 2014 the City of Sarnia and Transport Canada completed the divestiture of Sarnia Harbour. The City of Sarnia now owns the Sarnia Harbour.

Berthage at Sarnia Harbour

The berthage of vessels at the docks and wharfs in the harbour is a principle business for the Port of Sarnia. Many of the vessels that use the Sarnia Harbour are part of the Great Lakes Fleet operated and maintained by a number of different large Canadian shipping companies, including such companies as Algoma Central Corporation, Canada Steamship Lines, and Lower Lakes Towing Ltd. Sarnia Harbour also accommodates many international vessels primarily at the Cargill docks for the trans-shipment of grains and other cargos to and from Southwestern Ontario.

Seasonal Berthage

Sarnia Harbour provides vessels with seasonal berthage for temporary layup or for emergency repairs that are routinely carried out on both upbound and downbound vessels during the regular shipping season. The transfer of personnel, stores, repair parts and repair squads by workboat to vessels en-route is commonplace, as is temporary short-term layup when upbound vessels may pause to avoid severe weather conditions. Tugs berthed in the Government slip are also able to assist ship movements in the area. During a typical shipping season, it is estimated 60 to 80 vessels will regularly take advantage of the Sarnia Harbour facilities.

Winter Berthage

The Sarnia Harbour is strategically located above the Welland Canal. Late winter freeze ups and associated ice conditions enable commercial vessels to operate late into the shipping season, after the St. Lawrence Seaway is closed, and still arrive to make a winter berth at Sarnia before local freeze up. Similarly, the early spring break-up of ice on Lake Huron and the St. Clair River enable early cargo movements servicing ports located on lakes Erie, Huron, Michigan and the connecting waterways above the Welland Canal prior to the general opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway System. These operational advantages for the movement of cargo represent important commercial considerations and reinforce the advantages of Sarnia Harbour. The immediate availability of a large skilled labour force in the Sarnia area also strengthens the advantages of Sarnia harbour as a port of choice for ship repair and maintenance. During a typical winter season, 10 to 12 vessels will berth at the harbour for either winter layup or repair. Vessels scheduled for repair will locate along the Government Wharf or along the Cestar Dock (formerly called the “North Slip”).

Ship Repair and Maintenance

Ship repair and maintenance is a major Sarnia industry providing many thousands of man-hours of work annually. Ship owners regularly schedule major repairs at the Sarnia Harbour to take advantage of the unique attributes of Sarnia Harbour, including its strategic central Great Lakes location, the immediate availability of a large local pool of highly skilled and readily available labour, and the ability to procure specialty equipment.

2022 Rates and Fees

Berthage Rates

Sidney Smith Warf$1.55/metre/day
2nd or 3rd vessel out
Government Dock$1.80/metre/day
2nd or 3rd vessel out
East Dock$1.30/metre/dayDockside (small vessels)
Cestar Dock$1.55/metre/day
2nd or 3rd vessel out


Storage fee$1.05/square metre/day
Harbour Usage Fee$1,325.00/vessel/each entry (working cargo, more than 24 hours)
$375.00/vessel/each entry (less than 24 hours)
Note: special rates may apply to small vessels, contact Harbour Master
Contractor License FeesGeneral Contractors (e.g. Algoma Central Corporation, Canada Steamship Lines, Lower Lakes Towing Ltd.)
Note: licensed general contractors include sub-contractors
Fees: $7,000/year OR $1,000/month OR $500/week
Other individual contractors
Fees: $1,000/year OR $250/week
WharfageRate to be determined based on commodity
ElectricityCost recovery plus mark-up (25%)

All of the above fees and charges will be subject to HST.

Contact Information

Allan Columbus
Sarnia – Harbour Master/Wharfinger
Office: 519-344-8894
Cell: 519-383-5571

Ron Realesmith
City of Sarnia – Operations
Sarnia of Sarnia – Marine Facility Security Officer

City of Sarnia
Telephone: 519-332-0330

Map of Sarnia Harbour