The St. Lawrence Seaway concluded its 50th anniversary season
on 28 December 2009 with the passage of the JW Shelley. The
vessel transited the Iroquois Lock at 7:37 p.m. on route to Lake
Ontario. The Seaway navigation season for 2009 spanned 274
The Welland Canal, which has been in operation since 1932,
remained open to navigation until 30 December, as the CSL
Tadoussac transited Lock 1 at 3:04 p.m. and cleared Port Weller
entering Lake Ontario at 3:22 p.m.
Total Seaway cargo volume for 2009 is estimated to amount
to 30.5mt (million tonnes), the lowest volume witnessed since
the early 1960s. The 25% decrease in cargo volume compared
to 2008 can be attributed to the depth of the recession, which
sharply curtailed movements of iron ore and steel on the
“Given the Seaway’s reliance upon the steel industry for a
substantial portion of our business, the economic downturn
during the last year has certainly impacted our traffic level,”
commented Richard Corfe, President and CEO of The St.
Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation (SLSMC). “The
depth of this downturn underscores the importance of the
SLSMC’s efforts to diversify our cargo base, and we are working
diligently on a number of fronts to attain this goal”.
“While our core market will remain centred upon the
transport of bulk commodities, we are working towards a future
in which the Seaway will become more adaptive in nature, and
able to welcome a wider variety of vessels carrying niche
cargoes” continued Corfe. “Our efforts to this end focus on the
development of hands-free mooring, which will eliminate the
need for a vessel owner to invest in equipment it only requires
when navigating through the Seaway, reduce vessel crewing
requirements for lock transits, and enhance productivity and
Despite the economic downturn, the Seaway and its Highway
H2O partners have not relented in their efforts to attract new
cargo volumes. A series of business incentives were credited
with bringing in 1.6mt of new cargo contributing over $2 million
in toll revenue for 2009. A pilot project sponsored by the Port
of Hamilton demonstrated the utility of transporting specialized
containers between Hamilton and Montreal via tug and barge,
providing an alternative to busy road and rail links.
Notable progress was also made in ballast water management
and efforts to prevent any new introductions of
aquatic invasive species (AIS) via ocean going
vessels entering Seaway waters. Recent studies by
leading academics including Dr Sarah Bailey from
the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and Dr
Hugh MacIsaac from the University of Windsor
reveal that no new species have been reported
since 2006, the first time since 1965–1967 that
there has been a three-year period without new
AIS discoveries.
“The application of salt water flushing, while not a final solution, is clearly having the
desired effect, giving vessels the ability to transit the Seaway without posing undue risks
to the ecology of our waters” emphasized Terry Johnson, Administrator of the US Saint
Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation. “Our present efforts combined with the
forthcoming introduction of US Coast Guard ballast water treatment standards will
ensure an orderly progression in the steps required to protect our system from
shipborne threats.”
The Government of Canada’s recent announcement of its intention to remove the
25% duty on certain vessels brought into Canada also bodes well for the Seaway’s future.
The ability of ship operators to cost effectively acquire vessels able to maximize the use
of the Seaway’s existing locks will bolster the system’s competitiveness. New vessels,
equipped with modern engines capable of burning low-sulphur fuels and advanced ballast
water management technology, will reinforce the existing bulk fleet and provide fresh
options to further expand short-sea shipping initiatives.
“Let’s not lose sight of the promise that marine transportation holds as the lowest
emitter of greenhouse gases per tonne mile, an advantage not to be taken lightly as our
nations collectively face great pressure to reduce North America’s carbon footprint”
concluded Canadian CEO Corfe.