Port History

The Hamilton Harbour: A Proud History

Early 20th Century

By the early twentieth century, Hamilton City Council recognized that it could no longer effectively administer harbour property. Rapid commercial and industrial expansion required the formation of a separate governing body to handle the increasing complexities of harbour management.


On April 1st, 1912, an Act of Parliament created the Hamilton Harbour Commissioners (HHC) and on May 1st 1912, the first three Harbour Commissioners, George J. Guy, Hugh S. Wallace and William J. Clark took their oaths of office. Captain Guy was elected as the Commissioners’ first Chairman, with the local Times newspaper lauding this wise decision: “He is an old marine man, a qualified vessel master, and is probably as familiar with the Hamilton harbour and its needs as any man living,” the paper wrote.


The long-awaited completion of the Welland Ship Canal in 1932 brought a tremendous boost in shipping to Hamilton industry. Anticipating the arrival of larger Great Lakes vessels and ocean freighters, the Commissioners had already widened and deepened the canal entrance from Lake Ontario into Hamilton Harbour. In order to accommodate the huge ore and coal ships which now had direct access to Harbour waters, the Steel Company of Canada and the Hamilton By-Product Coke Ovens constructed larger docks. The result: between 1929 and 1934 total tonnage in the harbour doubled from one to two million tonnes annually, making Hamilton the fourth-busiest port in the country, behind Montreal, Vancouver and Toronto.


In 1951, the Commissioners purchased property near the foot of James Street with the intent of constructing an administration building. Two years later, their aspirations were realized when the cornerstone to the five-story concrete structure was trowelled into place. Erected on a land rise little more than a stone’s throw from the actual waterfront, its top floor offered a panoramic view of the Harbour. Over the years, this handsome gray flagship – with the addition of a sixth floor in 1957, has become a familiar landmark in north end Hamilton.


When the St. Lawrence Seaway opened in 1959, the first ship travelling up the new system berthed in Hamilton.  Cargo tonnage after the first year of Seaway operation was higher in Hamilton than at any other Canadian or American Port on the Great Lakes.


On May 1, 2001, the 89 year history of the Hamilton Harbour Commissioners came to a quiet conclusion and the new Hamilton Port Authority came to life. Coincidentally, it was later discovered that the HPA was born exactly 89 years to the day after Messrs. Guy, Wallace and Clark swore their oaths of office as the first Commissioners of Hamilton Harbour.


Today, the Port of Hamilton handles over 12 million tons of cargo and is visited by over 700 vessels each year.  This ranks Hamilton as the busiest of all Canadian Great Lakes ports.

Larissa Fenn

Vice President, Corporate Affairs

Larissa Fenn is Vice President, Corporate Affairs at HOPA Ports, leading a team responsible for communications and government relations, sustainability reporting, corporate governance and corporate culture.

Previous positions included communications and public policy roles at the Canadian Bankers Association, Credit Valley Conservation Authority, and the Regional Municipality of Halton.

Larissa holds a B.A.(Hons) in Political Science from Queen’s University. She holds the APR designation from the Canadian Public Relations Society, and completed the Senior Public Sector Leaders program at the University of Western Ontario, Ivey School of Business. Larissa has served as Vice Chair of the Board of Directors of the Royal Botanical Gardens, and as a member of the Policy Council of the Hamilton Chamber of Commerce.

Bill Fitzgerald

Vice President, Strategic Development

Bill assumed the role of Vice President, Strategic Development in 2024, after having served as HOPA’s Vice President, Operations since 2008.

Bill joined the Hamilton-Oshawa Port Authority in July 1995 as Project Engineer. He previously worked with the Regional Municipality of Ottawa’s Transportation Department, as well as for the Toronto Transit Commission and the City of Waterloo.

Bill received a Bachelor of Applied Science, civil engineering / water resources, in 1995 from the University of Waterloo and registered with the Professional Engineers of Ontario in 1997.

Jeremy Dunn

Vice President, Operations

Jeremy assumed the role of Vice President, Operations in 2024 after having served as HOPA’s Commercial Vice President since 2019. Prior to joining HOPA, Jeremy served in successive leadership roles at The Miller Group, one of Canada’s leading transportation construction and infrastructure maintenance companies. Jeremy has managed multiple business groups in the heavy construction, asphalt paving and aggregates sectors driving results through business restructuring, service improvement and strategic growth. In his most recent role, Jeremy served as General Manager of Miller Maintenance, responsible for managing and growing Miller’s highway maintenance business in Ontario.

Previous to The Miller Group, Jeremy held the position of Director of Operations for the Dunn Group of Companies.

Jeremy earned his Bachelor of Commerce (Honours) through Queen’s University. He also holds a Master’s Certificate in Project Management.

Janet Knight

Executive Vice President & Chief Financial Officer

Chief Financial Officer for the Hamilton-Oshawa Port Authority since 2008, Janet joined the HPA in 1998 as Accounting Supervisor and subsequently served as Controller.

Prior to joining the HPA, Janet held the position of Financial Analyst with St. Joseph’s Hospital, as well as various positions, including Marketing Communications/Research Lead with Zeneca Agro. Janet graduated from McMaster University in 1986 with a Bachelor of Commerce. She attained the professional designation of Certified Management Accountant in 1992.

Ian Hamilton

President & CEO

Ian Hamilton is President & CEO of HOPA Ports (Hamilton-Oshawa Port Authority). He assumed this role in 2017, after serving as the Port Authority’s Vice President of Business Development and Real Estate since 2008. Ian has been instrumental in developing working waterfronts in Hamilton, Oshawa, and Niagara by attracting new business and private investment, and creating an integrated marine network across Southern Ontario.

Ian possesses more than 25 years of experience in international transportation and logistics in Europe and North America, and has held progressively senior positions in the liner shipping industry, including Transatlantic Trade Director (Europe) for CP Ships and Business Development Manager for Hapag-Lloyd. Ian is Chairperson of the Association of Canadian Port Authorities, and holds positions on various other boards, including: the Chamber of Marine Commerce, the Hamilton Club, and Brigs Youth Sail Training.

Ian holds an MBA from Aston University (UK) and a BSc in business administration and economics from the College of Charleston, South Carolina.