Ships travel through the Welland Canal system in St. Catharines.
The St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation (SLSMC) recently released its figures for the past year and it was a busy one. The total tonnage on the waterway during the 2018 navigation season was 40.9 million. That’s the highest result in more than a decade. The Corporation said much of the credit for the increase can be given to healthy movements of grain which was the best on record since the turn of the century. They also pointed to the continued marketing of the seaway as “Highway H2O” as helping to serve as a catalyst to spur increased movements of a broad range of cargoes including grain, road salt, stone, cement, gypsum and refined fuels.
“We are very pleased with the results recorded over the past year” said the SLSMC’s President and CEO, Terence Bowles. “After completing the first year with Hands Free Mooring installed at all of our high-lift locks, it is gratifying to see that our efforts to boost system efficiency and heighten our competitive position are bearing strong results. This new mooring technology eliminates the need for special vessel fittings, enabling the St. Lawrence Seaway to welcome a broader range of ships from the world fleet.”
According to the Niagara Region’s economic development department, the shipping industry has a massive impact on the local economy. There statistics state that from a local perspective, the Seaway System supports over 50 businesses and over 2,100 direct jobs in Niagara. The direct economic impact of the Seaway in the region is estimated to be over $300 million per year and that figure doesn’t include indirect and induced economic impact. Economic development officials said that dollar figure would be far greater than $300 million when factoring that indirect economic activity.
Craig Middlebrook, Deputy Administrator of the U.S. Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation said, “Total tonnage on the St. Lawrence Seaway exceeded the five, 10, and 15-year averages, making 2018 an exceptionally strong shipping season, the best in over a decade.” Middlebrook added, “Overall gains in year-over-year commodity increases were widespread, most notably in U.S. grain export trade. The investments in Seaway infrastructure and technology are achieving greater efficiencies for our customers and enhancing the binational waterway’s global competitiveness.”
The 2018 navigation season concluded on Dec. 31, with the transit of the Cedarglen through the Welland Canal’s Lock 8 , heading for Lake Erie.
The St. Lawrence Seaway enables cargo to move within North America and also serves as a vital international gateway, supporting trade with more than 50 countries across the globe. Since its opening in 1959, almost three billion tonnes of cargo valued at over $450 billion has moved through the St. Lawrence Seaway’s 15 locks.
The recent completion of the The St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation’s modernization program, which includes Hands Free Mooring and remote operation of locks from centralized operation control centres, represents the greatest advancement in Seaway operations since its inception in 1959. As a result, the Seaway has become even more competitive. With the elimination of tie-up lines for most vessels, Seaway employees and vessel crews face fewer safety risks and vessels experience less “wear and tear” as they enter and exit locks.
The St. Lawrence Seaway will enter its 60th anniversary at its 2019 season opening.