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


January 14, 2015, OTTAWA – A new study reveals that more than $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 CDN $7.1 billion in capital spending on ships, ports and terminals and waterway infrastructure in the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence waterway.

More than $4.8 billion has been invested in the navigation system from 2009-2013 and another $2.3 billion is committed to improvements from 2014-2018. Two-thirds of the capital (67 per cent) was invested by private companies with 33 per cent coming from government funding.

Amongst the most significant investments, Canadian, American and international ship owners are spending $4.1 billion on the biggest renewal of the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence fleets in 30 years, of which 56 per cent ($2.3-billion) comes via Canadian ship owners. The Canadian and U.S. federal governments, through respectively The St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation and the Saint Lawrence Seaway Development 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 $1.8 billion on expanding their docks, equipment, facilities and intermodal connections.

The 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 the Canadian government’s lifting of the 25 per cent foreign vessel import duty as a prime example.  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, was also an important factor.


  • Stephen Brooks, President of the Chamber of Marine Commerce — “These private and public investments are a tremendous show of confidence in the future of the Great Lakes – Seaway, a transportation gateway facilitating $35 billion in trade and supporting 227,000 jobs in Canada and the U.S. To keep that momentum going we will be working closely with our stakeholders and governments to make sure the right regulatory and investment climate exists for further economic growth and environmental improvements.”  
  • Terence Bowles, CEO of The St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation  — “Canada and the U.S. need world-class transportation systems for their industries to remain competitive on a global stage. Modernizing our structures and technology allows companies to export their goods more quickly and cost effectively. Marine shipping is vital to the success of Canada’s international trade strategy.”
  • Allister Paterson, President of Montreal-based Canada Steamship Lines —”When the Canadian federal government lifted the 25 per cent import duty on foreign-built vessels in 2010, it opened the door for investment by domestic ship owners. More than $2 billion is now being spent on new ships and vessel upgrades to establish a more efficient, greener and safer Canadian-flag fleet.  This not only benefits the North American mining, agricultural, construction and manufacturing industries that we serve but also those who live in communities throughout the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River region.”
  • Sean Donnelly, President and CEO, ArcelorMittal Dofasco— “The Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Seaway are integral to ArcelorMittal’s steel and mining facilities in both Canada and the United States as we utilize shipping for millions of tons of both raw materials and finished products. Our supply chain, which includes shippers that move our material, is critical to our business. Investments in fleet renewal with environmental, productivity and efficiency gains as well as reliability and availability improvements to infrastructure contribute to our business success and to the sustainability and profitability of the entire marine transport supply chain.”
  • John Buboltz, AVP of Merchandising and Transportation, Cargill Inc. — “The Great Lakes-St. Lawrence shipping system is a critical component of our broader transportation infrastructure in Canada. We need to recognize that future growth in the agriculture and food economy sector in Canada depends on efficient shipping systems.”

Quick Facts

  • Canadian port-terminal & waterway infrastructure investments in the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River region between 2009-2018 total $2.2 billion, with $1 billion worth of projects located in Ontario and $1.2 billion located in Quebec.
  • Investments in new and upgraded Canadian-flag vessels between 2009-2018 total $2.3 billion.

About the Survey

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 per cent.

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.

The full results of the Infrastructure Investment Survey of the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Seaway System can be downloaded at


Download photos from CMC’s Flickr site:

About the Chamber of Marine Commerce

The Chamber of Marine Commerce is a bi-national association that represents more than 150 marine industry stakeholders including major Canadian and American shippers, ports, terminals and marine service providers, as well as domestic and international ship owners.  The Chamber represents the interests of its members by addressing government issues affecting marine transportation.  Advocacy extends to federal, state/provincial and municipal levels of government.

About the Chamber of Marine Commerce

The Chamber of Marine Commerce (CMC) is a bi-national association that represents diverse marine industry stakeholders including major Canadian and American shippers, ports, terminals and marine service providers, as well as Canadian domestic and international ship owners. The Chamber advocates for safe, sustainable, harmonized and competitive policy and regulation that recognizes the marine transportation system's significant advantages in the Great Lakes, St. Lawrence, Coastal and Arctic regions.

Media Contact:
Jason Card
Chamber of Marine Commerce
(613) 447 5401