Canadian Manufacturing

Maritime shipments to pick up according to St. Lawrence Seaway operator

The seaway was closed since Dec. 31 for the winter, during which time there was more than $80 million worth of infrastructure maintenance to the system's locks and other mechanisms.

March 22, 2021  The Canadian Press

The organization that oversees the St. Lawrence Seaway expects that with economic growth projected to rise this year, shipments along the maritime route could pick up in 2021 after staying flat last year.

The St. Lawrence Seaway held a ceremony on Mar. 22 to inaugurate the start of its operations for this year, its second maritime shipping season of the pandemic.

In 2020, volume was hurt by reduced shipments of products like jet fuel and cement.

But Terence Bowles, the president and chief executive of the St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corp. that oversees the waterway, said he is hopeful that an increase in economic growth will drive activity along the waterway.

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“We often say the seaway is a bellwether for the economy,” Bowles said. “I’m certainly expecting business to pick up, for sure.”

The St. Lawrence Seaway is the linchpin in a system of commercial waterways that connects the Atlantic Ocean with the Great Lakes. A key conduit for goods entering and leaving Canada, the waterway each year supports millions of tonnes of shipments of essential industrial products such as manufacturing inputs, petroleum products and building construction materials.

The seaway was closed since Dec. 31 for the winter, during which time there was more than $80 million worth of infrastructure maintenance to the system’s locks and other mechanisms, Bowles said.

The Baie St. Paul, a lake freighter, was the first ship to enter the waterway this year, passing through the St. Lambert Lock as part of a virtual opening ceremony attended by federal Minister of Transport Omar Alghabra and U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg.