The St. Lawrence Seaway closed for the season on December 30, 2011, with the westbound vessel Algoma Spirit reaching Lake Ontario at 7:54 a.m. after having transited the locks on the St. Lawrence. The 53rd navigation season commenced on March 22, and the system remained open for a record 284 days, exceeding by one day the previous record set in 2006.
The tug/barge combination John Spence/Niagara Spirit was the last vessel to transit the Welland Canal, clearing Port Colborne on Dec. 30 at 8:26 p.m. on its way to Lake Erie.
The Seaway’s positive momentum remained intact in 2011, with tonnage volumes rising by 2.5% to reach an estimated 37.5 million tonnes. Trade patterns exhibited a number of changes, most notably with iron ore and coal becoming export commodities due to strong overseas demand. Grain volumes decreased overall by 6.4% due to a decrease in the amount of U.S. grain moving via the Seaway. Strong increases in the volume of liquid-bulk, salt and scrap metal contributed to an overall cargo increase of 930,000 tonnes for the season.
Terence Bowles, President and CEO of The St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation, noted that the year brought about some significant progress on a number of fronts. “We recognize that while some of our core markets remain under pressure, work is progressing in terms of diversifying our market base, containing our costs, and increasing the system’s productivity,” he said. “Over the last four years, our market development efforts have generated $12.5 million in new business revenue.”
“In addition to advances in cargo volumes, we achieved a good deal of progress in 2011 on a number of other fronts” added Mr. Bowles. “In October of 2011, a new three-year labour agreement was ratified, extending to March 31, 2014. We reached a fair settlement that controls our costs and ensures that our customers can continue to experience reliable service.”
“This is the second consecutive year of increases in Seaway traffic and tonnage, reflecting the resilience of the North American economy” said Collister Johnson, Jr., Administrator of the U.S. Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation.