Lake Carriers’ Association releases 2018 State of The Lakes Report

Lake Carriers’ Association (LCA) is reporting significant progress on issues critical to the future of Great Lakes shipping in its 2018 State of the Lakes Report, released July 24. LCA has represented U.S.-flag vessel operators on the Great Lakes since 1880.

The cover of the report features a 1,000-foot U.S.-flag laker transiting the Poe Lock at Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, and for good reason. On June 29, 2018, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers issued its New Soo Lock Economic Validation Study that determined building a second Poe-sized lock has a benefit/cost ratio of 2.42, well above the level required for inclusion in an administration budget. Upon the study’s release, James C. Dalton, the Corps’ Director of Civil Works, said: “The strategic importance of the Soo Locks cannot be overstated.”

President Trump has publicly supported the project, so LCA will now focus its efforts on having a substantial portion of the $922 million project estimate included in the administration’s next budget.

At one point this past winter, five of the U.S. Coast Guard’s icebreaking assets were out of service at the same time. The delays in December and January were so significant that LCA members saw 1.8 million tons of cargo either delayed or outright cancelled. These problems underscored the need for another heavy, Mackinaw Class icebreaker. Initial funding to design the vessel has been appropriated. Now LCA’s resources are focused on funding construction.

The association continues to support uniform, federal regulation of ballast water discharges because the patchwork of regulations enforced by two federal agencies (U.S. Coast Guard and EPA) and several Great Lakes states makes compliance difficult, if not impossible. To that end, LCA supports passage of the Vessel Incidental Discharge Act.

Steady increases in funding for dredging have reduced the backlog of sediment that needs to be dredged from ports and waterways from 18 million cubic yards to 13.5 million cubic yards. However, the backlog must continue to be reduced. The vessels operated by LCA members lose as much as 270 tons of cargo for each inch of reduced draft. Congress must continue to adequately fund dredging on the Lakes. Even when the backlog has been cleared, the natural rate of siltation will require that 3 million cubic yards of sediment be dredged each year.

The issues LCA is addressing are formidable, but everything points to a sustainable future for U.S.-flag shipping on the Great Lakes.

To see the complete report, click here.

Maritime Editorial