St. Lawrence Seaway opens today, projects 3% increase in tonnage this year
Thursday, March 22, 2012 - 2:09 pm

St. Lawrence Seaway authorities project total cargo weight through the system to be up by about three percent this shipping season.

With the official start of the Seaway’s 54th season this morning, the St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation, the Canadian arm of Seaway management, predicted that cargo shipments would rise by about three per cent to 38.6 million metric tons for 2012.

Exports of coal are expected to be a bright spot, as producers in Montana route their product by rail to Great Lakes ports, where the cargo is loaded onto lakers and brought to the Port of Quebec via the Seaway. The coal is then trans-shipped to ocean vessels destined for Europe, avoiding congested Atlantic coastal ports.

Canada’s Aluminerie Alouette, the largest aluminum smelter in North America, has been using the Seaway to transport substantial volumes of aluminum ingots on a tug-and-barge combination from its facility in Sept-Iles, Quebec to Great Lakes ports in the U.S.

“We are pleased to see continued momentum in the burgeoning tug and barge sector,” said Bruce Hodgson, Director of Market Development for the SLSMC. “The Aluminerie Alouette shipments serve as a great example of how marine transportation directly supports the operation of a major North American business and, at the same time, bolsters our quality of life.”

As a result of the tug and barge operation, tens of thousands of truckloads are being shifted from two and four lane highways to the Seaway. “We are pleased to see continued momentum in the burgeoning tug and barge sector,” said Bruce Hodgson, Director of Market Development for the SLSMC.

“The Aluminerie Alouette shipments serve as a great example of how marine transportation directly supports the operation of a major North American business and, at the same time, bolsters our quality of life.

Canadian agribusiness firm Parrish and Heimbecker has invested $30 million in expanding its grain handling facilities at the Port of Hamilton, an endorsement of the enduring value of the Seaway in cost effectively moving grain.

Canadian and international carriers are in the process of building new vessels, with some scheduled to begin transiting the Seaway in 2012. Collister Johnson Jr., administrator of the U.S. Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation, noted that with carriers investing hundreds of millions of dollars in fleet renewal, the Seaway system’s future is good. “Marine transportation is already the most energy efficient means of moving cargo, and these new vessels will increase energy efficiency by up to 40% in addition to offering leading edge emissions performance,” said Johnson.

A recently published economic impact study, commissioned by Marine Delivers, demonstrates the significant role that the Great Lakes / Seaway system plays in supporting the Canadian and U.S. economies. Some 227,000 jobs and $34 billion in economic activity are supported by the movement of goods on the Great Lakes and the Seaway.