Seaway ties record for longest navigation season

After opening the 2016 season March 21, the St. Lawrence Seaway closed December 31, a navigation season of 286 days. This performance ties the record first established in 2008 and matched in 2013 for the longest navigation season.

The St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation recorded a total of 35 million metric tons of cargo transiting the Seaway’s locks in 2016. Grain movements posted a strong performance for a third consecutive season, contributing 11 million metric tons of the total and continuing to track well above the five-year average.

The Port of Thunder Bay, the principal point of entry for grain into the Great Lakes/St. Lawrence Seaway system, reported a late-season surge in grain activity, as loadings in December trumped previous December activity since 1995. Grain activity was also strong in the U.S., as the total volume originating from ports, such as Duluth/Superior and Toledo, increased by 21 percent during 2016.

“The Seaway system is able to respond to unpredictable surges in cargo movements from a broad number of sectors,” said Terence Bowles, President and CEO of The St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation (SLSMC). “We take it all in stride.”

The final tonnage statistics for the 2016 Seaway navigation season are a validation of the importance of the Great Lakes/St. Lawrence Seaway system to the economy of North America’s ‘Opportunity Belt,’ according to the U.S. Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation. Cargo shipments this past year supported manufacturing, construction, energy, agriculture and other industries throughout the Great Lakes region. In particular, the movement of containers with high-value project cargo is an area of continued growth.”

Serving as a vital trade artery, the Great Lakes/St. Lawrence Seaway system enables cargo to move between North America and more than 50 countries across the globe.

“Without a doubt, agricultural commodities have become increasingly important and it’s rewarding to see the pace of new investment by grain companies in ports along our waterway,” said Bowles. “What we need to keep in mind is that while grain movements may be the key player this year, we have the capacity and the adaptability to service any number of diverse clients and their cargo requirements. In a world economy characterized by volatility and unpredictable swings in trade patterns, the Seaway system provides a resilient transportation network that keeps all types of goods moving.”

Maritime Editorial