The St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corp. (SLSMC) marked the opening of the Seaway’s 62nd navigation season Tuesday with the transit of the NACC Argonaut through Lock 8 on the Welland Canal.
The Seaway’s Montreal/Lake Ontario section will open on April 1, eight days after the opening of the Welland Canal. This hybrid approach will enable the International Joint Commission to move record volumes of water out of Lake Ontario in order to provide relief to lakeshore communities battered by high water levels.
The Great Lakes St. Lawrence River System is a “marine highway” that extends some 3,700 km from the Atlantic Ocean to the Great Lakes. Over 200 million tons of cargo travels over the system on an annual basis, supporting over 329,000 jobs and $59 billion in economic activity in Canada and the U.S.
“With the COVID-19 outbreak, we are living in exceptional times. We witnessed a tremendous response by our employees and members of the broader marine community in overcoming a range of obstacles to ensure that the Seaway can open,” Terence Bowles, president and CEO of the SLSMC, said in a statement announcing the beginning of the navigation season. “The St. Lawrence Seaway provides an essential transportation service that literally feeds nations around the world, including Canada and the U.S., and supplies the inputs which keep many of our industries operating. We will strive to do our part during this difficult period. We are implementing recommended preventive measures to protect the health of our employees, including working from home where possible.”
The binational St. Lawrence Seaway serves as the linchpin within the broader waterway, connecting the lower St. Lawrence River to the Great Lakes. Beginning in Montreal and extending to points west, the Seaway’s 15 locks (13 Canadian and two U.S.) enable ships to climb a total of 168 meters (551') from “sea level” up to Lake Erie.
Craig H. Middlebrook, deputy administrator of the U.S. Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corp. said, “Every navigation season brings opportunities and challenges and the 2020 season will be no different. While the opportunities and challenges change each year, what remains constant are the safety, reliability, efficiency and environmental performance advantages of waterborne. transportation. The Seaway corporations continue working every day to ensure that these advantages are realized as fully as possible in our binational waterway.”