Okay, perfect. Thank you very much.
Good afternoon, Madam Chair, and members of the committee. It's a great honour to address the committee today.
As you mentioned, my name is Ian Hamilton. I'm the President and CEO of the Hamilton Port Authority. It's nice to see so many of you again. We were delighted to be able to tour you around the port last year when you were in Niagara and you could see first-hand some of the industries we serve and the outstanding growth we are experiencing.
As a brief refresher, Hamilton is the seventh-largest port authority in Canada and the largest in Ontario. In 2018, we had our best year in a decade. We shipped over 11.4 million tonnes of cargo, which was valued at more than $3 billion. That's a big change from a decade ago when we had a similar cargo volume, in 2008. At that time, 76% of our cargo was related to the steel-making industry, and today that number is closer to 54%.
One of the big key drivers to that success story has been the growth in the agricultural products, corn, wheat, soybeans, which are all exported from Hamilton to destinations throughout the world.
Saying all of that, we're still a key transportation infrastructure for Hamilton's nationally important steel sector, allowing the steel companies to receive raw materials like iron ore and coal and finished steel products. The port of Hamilton is also the key gateway for commodities that are critical for the southern Ontario market, such as road fuel, road salt, asphalt and construction materials, making us a truly diversified entity today.
In Hamilton, we have seen a progressive shift towards more diversified overseas cargoes, including exports. The number of vessels making overseas trips has grown by over 60% in 2018, and one of the key factors behind that is the infrastructure investments made in the facilities to handle these materials.
Hamilton now has three grain export terminals and southern Ontario's largest grain export gateway. Our biggest challenge continues to be building new capacity to meet these market demands, and the national trade corridors fund has been an extremely valuable tool in helping the port of Hamilton create this capacity.
In 2018, we were extremely proud to receive $17.7 million through the national trade corridors fund. HPA will match that amount, and then some, with our funds, in support of a $40-million project here in Hamilton, the westport modernization project. In addition to the $40 million between ourselves and the NTCF that will be invested, we anticipate $100 million in leveraged investment attraction from third parties.
It is focused on the oldest section of the port of Hamilton, an area that was assembled piece by piece over many years, with infrastructure that in some cases exceeds 80 years old. The project will allow us to upgrade our dock walls to current standards, increasing the amount of cargo handled at westport piers. It allows us to bring rail service to all of the piers, giving port users modal choice and flexibility. It has also allowed us to realign the rail and to reconfigure some of the buildings, which will allow us to increase our capacity by over 30 acres.
With the co-operation of Transport Canada's staff, which has been fantastic, we completed our contribution agreement very quickly and got our shovels in the ground in January of this year. We hope to finish the entire project by the end of 2020.
Just this week, we announced our first business growth outcome for the westport project, a new food-grade warehouse of 56,000 square feet, in partnership with Fluke Transportation. This will help to serve the $1-billion food industry in Hamilton in creating more capacity for food-grade storage.
The structure of the NTCF program has allowed us to customize a project that addresses a unique aspect to the port of Hamilton and its role in the national transportation corridors system. I think one of the reasons it has worked so well is that the objective of the funds is closely aligned with our mandate as a Canadian port authority: to facilitate trade and to act as an economic driver. Enabling trade in proven transportation efficiency is the work that we do every day.
The other thing that sets the NTCF program apart from previous infrastructure investment programs, like the gateway funds, is that it accounts for the unique trade flows that take place in the Great Lakes region. Unlike the coastal ports where cargo transits through the ports, the cargo for the Hamilton Port Authority and the inland ports is used within about 100 kilometres of the port itself. This really serves the manufacturing heartland of the Great Lakes area and the farmers who bring all of their produce through Hamilton.
The NTCF program allowed us to design a project that delivers value to the national transportation system in a way that makes most sense for the Great Lakes region.
As part of the next round, the Hamilton Port Authority has identified and submitted another project. It is smaller in scope but one that is fairly in line with the government's focus on diversifying Canada's export opportunities. This project will dredge a new slip adjacent to one of the port's grain export terminals, allowing us to reduce the vessel turnaround times. This will allow us to export more Ontario grain to overseas markets. This is a market where we continue to see terrific growth opportunity.
CETA has opened new markets for Canadian projects, and Canada enjoys one of the best global brands for safe, reliable food commodities. New storage capacity for sugar will also—