CORNWALL, Ontario – The St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corp. has announced that tonnage increased by 4 percent to 38.9 million tons during the 2012 navigation season, exceeding its original forecast by 300,000 tons because of a late season surge in grain movements. Strong performance within a number of core markets contributed to an overall gain of 1.4 million tons for the year, when compared to the Seaway’s 2011 result of 37.5 million tons.
Demand for low sulphur coal in Europe led to a substantial increase in coal volumes, while Chinese steel mills triggered an upsurge in the demand for iron ore. Shipments of coal and iron ore were brought to the Great Lakes and loaded on domestic Laker vessels. The Lakers then proceeded from the Great Lakes to the lower St. Lawrence River, where the commodities were trans-shipped to larger ocean vessels, for export to overseas destinations.
On the grain front, 2012 was a story of contrasts as strong Canadian grain movements offset a sharp drop in U.S. grain movements, due to the drought which impacted the majority of the U.S. grain belt.
A number of newly built state-of-the art vessels came into service within the Seaway in 2012, boasting sharp increases in fuel efficiency and reductions in emission levels.
The 2012 season also witnessed an important advance in navigational technology. “The commissioning of the Draft Information System (DIS) further enhances vessel safety and efficiency,” said Craig Middlebrook, Deputy Administrator of the U.S. St. Lawrence Seaway Development Corp. “A vessel equipped with DIS can now precisely gauge the amount of water under the ship’s keel, given satellite guided navigation combined with highly precise models of the channel floor.”
The St. Lawrence Seaway closed for the season on Dec. 29, with the westbound vessel John B. Aird transiting the Iroquois Lock at 8:59 p.m. After transiting the Iroquois Lock, the John B. Aird proceeded further west and served as the last vessel to transit the Seaway’s Welland Canal, clearing Lock 8 at Port Colborne on Dec. 31at 4:23 a.m.
Some 227,000 jobs and $34 billion in economic activity are supported by the movement of goods within the Great Lakes/Seaway waterway.