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Marine Delivers Magazine 2020

St. Lawrence Seaway Essential to U.S. and Canadian Economies


When the St. Lawrence Seaway opened the Great Lakes to global trade 60 years ago, it set the stage for regional economic growth. Celebrating its 60th anniversary last year, the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence region is now an industrial and agricultural transportation hub for both the United States and Canada – with a combined GDP of more than $6 trillion U.S. dollars. More than 238,000 jobs and USD $35 billion (CAD $45 billion) in economic activity are supported by movement of cargoes on the Great Lakes–St. Lawrence Seaway System.

The St. Lawrence Seaway has promoted trade by lowering transportation costs.

Each ship carries as much cargo as 963 tractor-trailer trucks, and does so with seven times more fuel efficiency. This saves $3.6 billion per year in transportation costs, while reducing highway congestion and pollution. It has been a factor in the creation of 7 million jobs since President Donald Trump’s election.

The St. Lawrence Seaway’s emphasis on safety, improving operations, and investing in infrastructure reflects the U.S. Department of Transportation’s top three priorities. The Department’s first priority is safety. The second priority is improving infrastructure, and the third priority is preparing for the future by engaging with new technologies to address legitimate public concerns about safety, privacy, and security, without hampering innovation.

Seaway Encourages Innovation

The Seaway encourages innovation. It was the first inland waterway system to adopt the Automatic Identification and integrate it with a Traffic Management System. This GPS- enabled system has entered worldwide use. The Seaway is now developing a new traffic management system that harnesses “big data” concepts.

This is a joint effort with the Canadian Seaway and the Volpe National Transportation Systems Center in Cambridge, Massachusetts to develop a new vessel traffic flow management system. This system could be a groundbreaking advance in managing, scheduling, and predicting vessel traffic in the Seaway. The goal is to provide precise and accurate voyage planning for each vessel transiting the entire Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway System.

Over the past 10 years, the Seaway’s Asset Renewal Program has invested $161 million in 55 different projects. One example is the innovative Hands-Free Mooring (HFM) system. The HFM systems are installed on both American locks and 13 of the 15 locks in the Seaway. The HFM systems save 3 to 4 hours per Seaway transit.

HFM not only increases transit safety and efficiency, it allows a broader variety of ships to use the passage. The old mooring system required ships to be specially outfitted for the Seaway mooring system. This was expensive and limited the number of vessels that could transit the Seaway.

The elimination of this requirement has increased the number of ships that can transit the Seaway by tenfold. As a result, we are seeing a rise in the first-time users of the Seaway.