Algoma Central Corporation was incorporated on August 11, 1899 in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, as the Algoma Central Railway Company with an initial capitalization of $3 million. The Corporation was founded to construct a railway from Sault Ste. Marie to a main Canadian Pacific Rail line for the transport of iron ore and timber.
Under the Land Grant Aid Act (Ontario) of 1900, and as a result of its commitment to build a rail line, the Algoma Central Railway received over 1.6 million acres of forest lands, in and around the Algoma region in which Sault Ste. Marie is located. Conditions attached to the land grant included an obligation to “maintain a Great Lakes fleet of four steel vessels of at least 2,000 tonnes carrying capacity.” On February 16th, 1900, the Board of Directors of Algoma Central Railway met and approved that the Corporation “purchase four steam vessels to be used for freight and passenger service in connection with the Company’s railway”, and this was how the Algoma Central fleet was born.
Although the pace of investment in the railway and the Great Lakes fleet was initially rapid, within a few years, the Corporation began to suffer from lack of funds, and in 1903, entered an extended period of financial restructuring, during which time both the railway and the fleet of Great Lakes vessels continued to operate.
Finally, in 1958, the Corporation felt it was on sufficiently secure financial footing to consider a refinancing proposal that would clear Algoma’s old debt, and enable it to emerge from court protection and seek a public listing on the Toronto Stock Exchange. On May 21, 1958, the Corporation, previously renamed The Algoma Central and Hudson Bay Railway, was granted a listing by the Exchange and the Corporation officially completed its refinancing on November 14, 1958.
Over the years since becoming a public company, Algoma has held interests in many aspects of the transportation industry, including trucking, helicopter and air expediting services, while maintaining its focus on the marine fleet. In 1973, the Corporation established what is now known as Algoma Central Properties to develop and manage its significant land holdings in downtown Sault Ste. Marie, opening the first phase of Station Mall in 1975. In 1995, Algoma Central Railway was sold, followed in 1997 by the sale of the Corporation’s large forest land holdings. In 1998, Algoma expanded its domestic shipping operations, acquiring from Imperial Oil Limited that company’s fleet of domestic product tankers and forming Algoma Tankers Limited.
Since 1990, Algoma has grown its domestic dry-bulk operations, beginning with the establishment of Seaway Bulk Carriers in 1990 and Seaway Self-Unloaders in 1993. These two Pools eventually came together to form Seaway Marine Transport and Algoma closed the circle in 2011 by buying out its partner to become the sole owner of the domestic dry-bulk business.
In 1997, Algoma acquired an interest in Marbulk Canada Inc. to broaden its strategic interests in dry-bulk shipping and self-unloader trades. This later led to the formation of Algoma Shipping Ltd. and the Corporation’s direct entry into the international dry-bulk shipping business.
Today, Algoma owns and operates the largest Canadian flagged fleet of dry and liquid bulk carriers operating on the Great Lakes – St. Lawrence Seaway, including self-unloading dry-bulk carriers, gearless dry-bulk carriers and product tankers. Algoma also owns and operates ocean self-unloading dry-bulk vessels trading in international markets and 50% interests in global joint ventures that own a diversified portfolio of dry and liquid bulk fleets operating internationally.