The St. Lawrence Seaway closed for the season on December 30, 2011, with the westbound vessel Algoma Spirit reaching Lake Ontario at 7:54 a.m. after having transited the locks on the St. Lawrence River.
The Seaway’s 53rd navigation season commenced on March 22nd, and the system remained open for a record 284 days, exceeding by one day the previous record set in 2006. The tug / barge combination John Spence / Niagara Spirit was the last vessel to transit the Welland Canal, clearing Port Colborne December 30th at 8:26 p.m. on its way to Lake Erie. The St. Lawrence Seaway’s positive momentum remained intact in 2011, with tonnage volumes rising by 2.5% to reach an estimated 37.5 million tonnes. Trade patterns exhibited a number of changes, most notably with iron ore and coal becoming export commodities due to strong overseas demand. Grain volumes decreased overall by some 6.4% due to a decrease in the amount of U.S. grain moving via the Seaway. Strong increases in the volume of bulk liquids, salt and scrap metal contributed to an overall cargo increase of 930,000 tonnes for the system’s 2011 season.
Terence Bowles, President and CEO of the St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation, noted that the year brought about some significant progress on a number of fronts. “We recognize that while some of our core markets remain under pressure, work is progressing in terms of diversifying our market base, containing our costs, and increasing the system’s productivity. Over the last four years, our market development efforts have generated $12.5 million in new business revenue” said Bowles.
“In addition to advances in cargo volumes, we achieved a good deal of progress in 2011 on a number of other fronts” said Bowles. “In October of 2011, a new three-year labour agreement was ratified, extending to March 31, 2014. We reached a fair settlement that controls our costs and ensures that our customers can continue to experience reliable service.”
“This is the second consecutive year of increases in Seaway traffic and tonnage, reflecting the resilience of the North American economy” said Collister Johnson, Jr., Administrator of the U.S. Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation. 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 within the Great Lakes / Seaway waterway. Since its inception in 1959, over 2.5 billion tonnes valued in excess of $375 billion has been transported via the Seaway. For more information on the Seaway, including access to the full text of the economic impact study, please consult the www.greatlakes-seaway.com website.