$7 Billion Makeover for Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Shipping

Maritime Activity Reports, Inc.

January 14, 2015

A typical bulker plies the St. Lawrence Seaway (image: Chambr of Marine commerce)

A typical bulker plies the St. Lawrence Seaway (image: Chambr of Marine commerce)

A new study released today reveals that $7 billion is being spent on asset renewal and infrastructure improvements in the bi-national Great Lakes-St. Lawrence shipping system.


The investment survey, compiled by maritime trade consultants, Martin Associates, tallies US$ 6.9 billion in capital spending on ships, ports and terminals and waterway infrastructure in the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence waterway.

Of that total, $4.7 billion has been invested in the navigation system from 2009-2013 and another $2.2 billion is committed to improvements from 2014-2018. Two-thirds of the capital (67 percent) was invested by private companies with 33 percent coming from government funding. Amongst the most significant investments, American, Canadian and international ship owners are spending $4 billion on the biggest renewal of the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence fleets in 30 years. The U.S. and Canadian federal governments, through respectively the Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation and The St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation, have dedicated close to $1 billion to modernize the Seaway’s lock infrastructure and technology over the 10-year period — the Seaway’s most significant transformation in five decades. And Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River ports and terminals are also collectively investing more than $1.7 billion on expanding their docks, equipment, facilities and intermodal connections.

The bi-national Chamber of Marine Commerce, one of the trade associations that commissioned the survey, adds that the right regulatory climate has been key for the flurry of capital expenditures, citing New York State’s decision to not move ahead with unachievable standards for ballast water treatment systems, which would have effectively blocked marine ships from passing through the St. Lawrence Seaway, as a prime example.


To quantify the amount of investment on the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Seaway navigation system, Martin Associates identified 628 stakeholders consisting of United States and Canadian terminal operators, vessel operators, port authorities, and government agencies to be interviewed. Of the 628 stakeholders, 454 participated in the survey for a response rate of just over 72 percent. The geographic area covered by this survey includes investments in all portions of the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway navigation system from Duluth, Minnesota in the west to Sept-Îles, Quebec in the east.

Facility investments at the Port of Montreal and at St. Lawrence River ports east of Montreal were included in the survey only if they were used to facilitate the movement of commerce to/from the Great Lakes. Similarly, facilities at the Port of Chicago that primarily handle inland river barge shipments were not included in the survey unless they also serve Great Lakes deep-draft vessel cargo.

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