The Seaway concluded its 2014 navigation season with just under 40 million tonnes of cargo, which represents a full recovery from the 2009 global financial crisis and its ensuing aftermath. 

A 44-per-cent increase in the volume of grain moving through the Seaway was the standout feature of the season, as farmers and grain merchants furiously sought avenues to move the bumper crop from 2013 that had clogged rail lines. “There can be little question that the Seaway proved its value as a vital transportation artery in 2014” said Terence Bowles, President and CEO of The St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation (SLSMC). “Carriers moved over 12 million tonnes of grain through our locks, the highest volume since the turn of the century some 14 years ago. We are also pleased with our various marketing initiatives and toll incentives, to which we attribute about 2.5 million tonnes of new business during 2014”.

The rebound to 40 million tonnes of cargo in 2014, a 7 per cent increase over the 2013 result, was principally due to the boom in grain shipments, accompanied by strong volumes of iron and steel products, and shipments of road salt to replenish inventories that had been severely depleted during the harsh winter of 2013, and was achieved despite a 32 per cent drop in shipments of iron ore, to 6.7 million tonnes.

U.S. Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation Administrator Betty Sutton said “The Great Lakes St. Lawrence Seaway System plays a strong role in facilitating economic growth throughout the Great Lakes Region, which is quickly becoming the ‘Opportunity Belt’ of North America.  In particular, the increases in iron and steel cargo this shipping season reflect new growth in manufacturing, construction, energy and other industries throughout the region. The strong finish to the Seaway’s 2014 navigation season contributed to the resurgence in the overall economy and foreshadows a positive outlook for increasing use of maritime transportation to move goods throughout the region.”

During the 2014 navigation season, SLSMC commissioned three additional locks with Hands Free Mooring equipment, bringing the total number of locks equipped with vacuum pads as a means of mooring ships to four. As part of SLSMC’s five-year $500 million asset renewal and modernization program, it is forging the means for a waterway that is yet safer and more efficient. By the end of 2017, all Seaway high-lift locks will be equipped with the automated mooring equipment, eliminating the need to manually tie-up vessels using lines.

SLSMC management announced that the Seaway closed for the season on January 1, 2015, and is expected to re-open on March 28th (about a week later than usual, reflecting frigid conditions in early spring). Separately, SLSMC management announced that Seaway tolls and wharfage charges will increase by 2 per cent in 2015.