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Cautious optimism at opening of St. Lawrence Seaway

Mar 20, 2017

In balmy weather on the first day of spring, the St. Lawrence Seaway opened its 59th navigation season at its Montreal entrance with a mood of cautious optimism prevailing among US and Canadian Seaway officials, government representatives and marine industry representatives.

The Trillium Class bulk carrier CSL St-Laurent, the first ship to transit the St. Lambert lock, featured a monumental work of art work commissioned by Montreal-headquartered Canada Steamship Lines, a division of the CSL Group, as a tribute to Canada’s 150th anniversary and the 375th of the City of Montreal. The CSL St-Laurent was sailing to Thunder Bay, on the tip of Lake Superior, to pick up grain for export destination.

Entitled The Sea Keeper, the mural depicts a Canada goose in flight, a common sight along the St. Lawrence River. It represents a unique element on a freighter trading on the waterway linking the Atlantic Ocean to the heartland of North America. And symbolically enough, at one point during the ceremonies, a group of geese flew overhead!

Last year, the St. Lawrence Seaway saw its traffic decline by 3.4% to 35 million metric tons. But, there was a strong finishing burst in December, notably in overseas grain shipments.

Terence Bowles, president and CEO of the St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation, indicated he was “cautiously optimistic” of a better performance in 2017 thanks to a number of positive factors. The latter included large carryovers of grain from the 2016 harvest, signs of stronger economic trends in Canada and the United States, and the favorable impact on maritime transport of the Canada-European Union free trade agreement (expected to be implemented, in large part, by next fall).

In addition to recalling the fundamental role played by the Seaway in facilitating trade between Canada and the United States, Bowles stressed that thanks to the world’s first hands-free-mooring system and other asset renewals, he was confident that “the Seaway is ready for the future.”

Marc Garneau, Canadian federal Minister of Transport, and the Jean D’Amour, Minister for Maritime Affairs for the Province of Québec, were among a number of dignitaries that shared their convictions as to the vital role played by marine transportation in supporting Canada’s ascendance as a trading nation, and the City of Montreal’s rich history as a key trading hub.

“The St. Lawrence Seaway has a distinguished past, a dynamic and vital present and will continue to play a pivotal role in Canada’s economy in the future,” said Garneau. “It is gratifying to see that the Seaway and its partners continue to modernize their operations, to make them more efficient as well as environmentally sustainable.”

Deputy Administrator of the U.S. Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation, Craig H. Middlebrook, said: “The ability of the Seaway to accommodate and encourage increases in maritime cargo rests first and foremost on its ability to move ships safely and reliably. By that standard, the Seaway’s record is remarkable as evidenced by a sharp reduction in vessel incidents over the last 20 years. Last year was one of the safest navigation seasons on record.”

Author Photo
Leo Ryan
American Journal of Transportation
CANADA CORRESPONDENT

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