“The industry’s great connector.”
“Someone with a rarely matched work ethic.”
These are words used to nominate Sonia Simard for Great Lakes/ Seaway Review’s Impact! 2021 award. Simard has invested nearly 25 years in the shipping industry and currently serves as director, legislative and environmental affairs, for Shipping Federation of Canada. She is the first recipient of this award, which recognizes one woman annually for outstanding contributions to her company and/or the Great Lakes/St. Lawrence Seaway shipping industry.
“We couldn’t have been more impressed with the skills and expertise of the candidates,” said Michelle Cortright, Publisher of Harbor House Publishers. “We carefully considered each nominee. Sonia embodies the qualities we created the award to recognize—impact, leadership, personal growth and mentoring others.
“In addition to applying her legal mind to key industry issues, we are impressed with Sonia’s collaborative nature and her commitment to sustainable solutions for the environment and the industry,” Cortright added.
Simard was selected for the award from a pool of logistics experts from both sides of the border. They ranged from younger up-and-comers to long-time leaders who were completing their careers and moving to new challenges.
The award was presented to Simard during a virtual gathering of Women in Logistics, a regional group of female shipping experts which normally meets each January during Marine Club.
Simard was nominated by Marie-Andree Giguere, sustainability coordinator for Fednav, along with Michael Broad, president of Shipping Federation of Canada, and Caroline Gravel, senior policy advisor, navigation safety and environmental programs for Transport Canada.
When introducing herself on LinkedIn, Simard says,
“The opportunity to make a difference drives me.”
Fellow professionals are seeing that difference. Broad recruited Simard based on the impact she was making before joining the shipping federation. Prior, she was a self-employed consultant, acting manager and senior policy advisor for Environment Canada, director, government affairs and regulatory compliance for Fednav Limited. She previously worked for the shipping federation from 1996-2000.
Simard works to position the association as a powerful voice on matters relating to sustainable maritime transportation in Canada. It has been five years since she rejoined the federation team.
“Having a background in law, she has been very involved in legal issues the federation has been party to and has saved its members thousands of dollars in legal fees,” Giguere said, noting that Simard’s expertise, skill in bringing key people and solutions to the table, and commitment to standing her ground are beneficial to the entire shipping industry.
“Rarely does one meet someone so driven to accomplish difficult tasks with the greatest degree of excellence for the benefit of our members, her colleagues, our industry, indeed our country,” Broad said in his letter of reference provided for the nomination. “Sonia leads by example and people are drawn to her.”
A recent example of Simard’s industry impact began with concern over the dangers of ship strikes to marine mammals. In response, she became a leader in the fight to save the North Atlantic Right Whale in the St. Lawrence River and along the East Coast. Her fact-finding process included consulting with international and domestic shipping companies, government, NGOs and pilots to find common ground.
“She has encouraged industry to participate in voluntary slow-downs and was successful in leading them to comply at a very high rate,” Broad said, noting that she also successfully pushed government to invest in improved whale detection equipment to increase safety and make voluntary programs more efficient.
“Thanks to her work, the consequences that could have been damaging for some sectors were limited and other, more vocal parties, were satisfied,” said Giguere, whose company, Fednav, is an association member. “During technical committees, she pushed for dynamic corridors, for detection technologies and for increased surveillance to ensure the safety not only of marine mammals, but also of fishermen, pilots and sailors. Many have described her as the great connector.”
Simard also led the federation in helping to develop the Port of Vancouver’s Echo Program, designed to reduce underwater noise to the benefit of the Southern Resident Killer Whale.
Throughout her career, Simard has developed an understanding of commercial realities and how to be effective in an environment where stakeholders have differing priorities. She encourages federation members to get involved in environmental initiatives and to be involved in the process and guide policy rather than just respond to proposed changes and regulations that could threaten shipping and its benefits.
Another example of Simard’s effectiveness involves her technical prowess when working as a liaison between members, Transport Canada and the U.S. Coast Guard on ballast water management in the Great Lakes.
As an observer on the Canadian delegation to the International Maritime Organization, she has played a key role in developing Canadian ballast water regulations. She keeps members informed on U.S. ballast water regulations to ensure they comply.
“Ms. Simard’s sensitivity to commercial realities, understanding of the policymaking and legislative process and her respect for a diversity of opinions have made her an essential actor in the Great Lakes/Seaway area and beyond,” said Transport Canada’s Gravel. “Her contributions to the sustainable development of the marine industry is the hallmark of her career. In her own words, Ms. Simard states that, ‘The intersection between industry, government, environment and sustainability is my playground.’”
When the pandemic hit last spring, Simard saw the need for a central information “bank” for the new protocols being introduced by federal, state and provincial governments and authorities—all impacting the international shipping industry. She jumped in and created the Covid 19 Resource Centre on the federation’s website. Creating the bank involved collecting, organizing, posting and updating the site, an investment of many long hours.
“We have received compliments on the resource center from members and stakeholders in the industry and governments from across Canada,” Broad said.
He added: “Despite her busy days (and nights), Sonia always has time for her colleagues in the office. She takes great pains to patiently explain issues and show others how to attack a problem or look to resolve one. All of us depend on her for her knowledge, ideas and plain common sense.”
Janenne Irene Pung ▢
MEET THE TEAM
Michelle Cortright is Publisher of Great Lakes/Seaway Review and Harbor House Publishers. She purchased the business from her father, diversifying the company into custom publications for chambers of commerce and economic development organizations. It has and continues to assist in regional business growth by creating business magazines, visitor guides and aiding clients with image development.
As Publisher, Cortright oversees every aspect of product creation, which encompasses the editorial and business sides of our print, digital and mobile publications. She meets with clients, which we consider true partners, spearheads business development and is always looking ahead for “the next thing.”
There is often laughter coming from Cortright’s office as she interacts with partners from throughout the Midwest. She is fully entrenched in her labor of love, a company we now celebrate for 50 years of making a difference and supporting families.
She is the mother of an adult son, who is now a business owner in the same town, and is married to Rod Cortright, who pretends to be retired but remains involved as our corporate pilot and jack-of-all-trades.
Executive Vice President
“For over 20 years, I have had the privilege of being a member of the talented team which produces Great Lakes/Seaway Review. Of utmost importance to me are the people and relationships that I have developed with our stakeholders, advertisers, subscribers and business associates in the Great Lakes/St. Lawrence Seaway maritime industry.
“Growing up in the Great Lakes area, I have always been intrigued by the water and the role it plays commercially, economically and in the quality of life it provides me personally as an avid boater on Lake Michigan. May the legacy of this 50th anniversary edition of Great Lakes/Seaway Review be a catalyst for the next 50 years of inspiration, innovation, advocacy and the development of relationships for advancing the Great Lakes/St. Lawrence Seaway system.”
Janenne Irene Pung has been Editor of Great Lakes/Seaway Review for 16 years. During her time with the magazine, she has represented the company at binational meetings, more fully activated the Editorial Advisory Board, developed new departments and evolved editorial styles.
Prior to joining Harbor House Publishers, Pung worked in mainstream media as a reporter and editor. She then moved into risk communications for the nuclear industry, documenting (visually and in writing) and communicating the process of decommissioning a plant and returning the lakeside property to a natural state.
In addition to being a professional, Pung is a wife and mother. She teaches life skills at a woman’s transition home and is a member of the Charlevoix County Sheriff’s Office Victim Services Unit. In both roles, she helps people work through trauma.
“For years, Great Lakes/Seaway Review was the monster project in our office that I didn’t have to tackle. When becoming Creative Director, I was nervous about the daunting task of designing the magazine. Since then, the team has worked hard to modernize our look and make the magazine as beautiful as it is informative.”
“Growing up, the Great Lakes were a place to swim and watch sunsets. After helping produce the magazine, I’ve learned that they are home to an entire network of companies which provide materials that support my everyday life. Each time I send the magazine to press and help prepare the digital edition, I feel a deep sense of accomplishment.”
“I’m the guy behind the scenes coding, creating the website and, most recently, designing the magazine’s online archive. I make shipping more visible for our subscribers and advertisers, as well as track global use of our digital products. It’s always a challenge to bring new technologies into a historic industry that’s still known for blue-collar production, but it’s a challenge I enjoy.”
“For several years I worked with a Mackinac Island, Michigan-based company and had the pleasure of photographing and taking videos of vessels passing through the Straits of Mackinac, especially the Round Island passage. My love and admiration for them was formed—and continues to grow. I now have the pleasure of working in the maritime industry and understand how important and vital these vessels are to our region and the economy. My goal is to work with our partners in the industry to help us all reach our collective best in the years ahead.”
Senior Account Manager
“Great Lakes/Seaway Review knits together every aspect of the Great Lakes commercial maritime industry from deckhands to CEOs to ports.”
Senior Account Manager
“I’ve known the magazine since Volume 1, first as a consultant in St. Paul working with Great Lakes clients and later as the Great Lakes Commission Executive Director, partnering with Jacques LesStrang. The last 30 years, I’ve worked on the inside.
“What makes Great Lakes/Seaway Review different is informed advocacy. Everything in the magazine is informed, factual and researched. We have spearheaded and partnered in research that led us to advocate for season extension, forgiveness of Seaway debt and removal of tolls, designation of the Fourth Seacoast, recognition and control of invasive species and many other issues benefitting the system today.
“Informed advocacy draws people to Great Lakes/Seaway Review for information and understanding—and it’s what makes it valuable to our advertisers and our readers.”
“Any successful business relies on timely, accurate information to stay ahead in their industry. Great Lakes/Seaway Review magazine is a trusted source of news and analysis of information needed by all members of the maritime community.”
“Historically, many of my family members have traveled the Great Lakes as ship captains, first mates and engineers. In fact, I had a family member perish when the Bradley went down in November 1958. As a child, my aunt would take me to the port in Rogers City to watch the ships load and unload their cargo. The mystique and beauty of the Great Lakes have been of particular interest to me.
“For the past 26 years, I have had the privilege of working with this talented team, which truly supports and advocates for the Great Lakes/St. Lawrence Seaway system.”
“I have early childhood memories of my dad loading us in the car on a Sunday afternoon and driving up to the Soo to watch the boats go through the locks, eat ice cream and buy saltwater taffy. I still go several times during the season. I have always loved that you can talk to the sailors on the ships—asking them where they’ve been and what they’re hauling. It’s like the whole world is at your doorstep.”
“Lake ports can grow no faster than shipping will permit. Shipping cannot grow beyond the capabilities of the ports. Yet neither has come close to reaching their present potential and will not until the savings in time and in dollars is fully understood by those who make the decisions on how and when and where to move goods. To the ends of development and information, the Seaway Review dedicates itself.”
Editor from 1985-2003
“Jacques LesStrang, founder of Great Lakes/Seaway Review, had many talents, or “skill sets,” as we say today. But one that served him particularly well throughout his career as a writer, editor, publisher, publicist, etc., was his knack for knowing a good story when he saw it. And the story he recognized in 1969—the 10th anniversary of the opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway—was as good as it gets. In fact, that story was so good it is still being told today, 50 years later.
“The publication created by LesStrang, or “J.L.” as his staff knew him, to mark the Seaway’s 10th anniversary was so well done, and so well received, that it grew legs, as it were, and took off running as a full-color, high-quality quarterly which became the most widely recognized chronicler of the Great Lakes/St. Lawrence Seaway system. Having Great Lakes/Seaway Review continue in that role today speaks volumes about the ongoing commitment of the current Publisher Michelle Cortright to Jacques LesStrang’s vision and high standards. Staying competitive in today’s information scrum is challeng-ing, to say the least, for print media. It requires dynamic, well-researched, topical content presented accurately and in a visually compelling format. In other words, it requires telling a good story. That was true in 1969, it is still true today and nobody tells it better than Great Lakes/Seaway Review.”