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  January 21st, 2016 | Written by

St. Lawrence Seaway Wraps Up 2015 Navigation Season

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  • Thirty-six million tons of cargo transited the St. Lawrence Seaway during the 2015 navigation season.
  • Grain volumes on the St. Lawrence Seaway amounted to 10.8 million tons in 2015, one of waterway’s strongest.
  • Thunder Bay, the principal grain port on the Great Lakes/Seaway System, reported its 2nd-best season in 15 years.

With water temperatures well above the 10-year average, the St. Lawrence Seaway closed its 2015 navigation season ice free at the end of 2015.

Thirty-six million tons of cargo transited the waterway during the season, with grain, at volumes well above the five-year average, leading the way. The Seaway once again proved to be a key asset for farmers as they shipped their crops to markets at home and overseas.

Grain volumes on the Seaway amounted to 10.8 million tons, one of the strongest years in recent memory.  The Port of Thunder Bay, the principal point of entry for grain into the Great Lakes/Seaway System, reported its second-best season in 15 years. Combined with grain being loaded onto ships from other ports such as Hamilton, Duluth/Superior, and Toledo, agricultural commodities have become increasingly important to the Great Lakes/Seaway System.

“The Seaway continues to serve as a vital trade artery, enabling cargo to move to more than 50 countries across the globe,” said Terence Bowles, CEO of The St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation (SLSMC).

In May, the SLSMC received the Promising Innovation in Transport Award by the International Transport Forum at the OECD, during the 2015 Summit of Transport Ministers held in Leipzig, Germany. The award recognized the SLSMC’s pioneering work in developing, with the supplier Cavotec, the world’s first Hands-Free Mooring (HFM) system for ships transiting locks. The use of this equipment will largely replace the traditional practice of manually securing ships in locks with steel mooring lines, enabling the Seaway to orchestrate gains in operating efficiency and safety, and become yet more competitive.

“The OECD’s recognition of the Seaway’s work on Hands Free Mooring underscores the value of the innovative spirit demonstrated by our employees, a quality that is essential to success in today’s global economy,” said Bowles. “With strong support from a wide variety of stakeholders, we are setting the stage for a thoroughly modern lock operating system, which will ensure the Seaway’s future competitiveness and sustainability well into the 21st century, and attract more vessels to use our waterway.”

The 2015 season opened on April 2nd, about a week later than usual, reflecting the frigid conditions in early spring, and closed on December 31st with the passage of the vessel Mississagi through Welland Canal Lock 1 at 3:41 AM. The last vessel to exit the Montreal/Lake Ontario section was the Baie St. Paul, which exited the St. Lambert Lock at 8:41 PM on December 30th. The 2015 navigation season was 274 days in length.

“Now that the navigation season has concluded, winter maintenance projects at the U.S. Snell and Eisenhower locks are already underway,” said Betty Sutton, Administrator of the U.S. Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation. “The maintenance of the U.S. locks is a year round job and Seaway employees are diligently working as we continue to rehabilitate and modernize the Seaway infrastructure under our Asset Renewal Program.”

The 2015 navigation season saw highs and lows in traditional cargoes that move through the Seaway System. Global demand for coal remained below last year’s levels whereas general cargo to and from international and domestic markets remained high with an increase of over 100 percent.  Project cargo and dry bulk materials to support the construction and manufacturing industry also remained in positive standings.

The Great Lakes/Seaway System extends some 2,300 miles from the Atlantic Ocean to the Great Lakes. Approximately 160 million tons of cargo travels over the combined Great Lakes/Seaway System on an annual basis.