By Alex Binkley

The St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation will move ahead with the installation of its hands-free ship mooring system this year, along with other infrastructure upgrades intended to renew the waterway and make it more attractive to ocean going vessels, says Terence Bowles, President and CEO.

The renewal program “will keep the Seaway strong and healthy and improve its efficiency,” Bowles said in an interview. “It’s already at above 99 per cent reliability.” The Seaway completed its first five-year, $265 million infrastructure renewal plan in 2012, and with additional federal funding secured, has embarked on a second $395 million program that will run through 2018.

The mooring system has already been installed in the Beauharnois No. 4 lock and will be added this year to Beauharnois No. 3, the St. Lambert lock and lock 3 of the Welland Canal in St. Catharines. The installation program for the rest of the system will be spread over the next four years. “It’s a very positive change for us. It’s safer for our people and crews of the ships and it makes the Seaway a lot more efficient and reduces costs. This is very important for our future.”

The hands-free system uses vacuum pads mounted on the docks walls to secure vessels instead of wires or ropes, which can snap and injure workers or crew on the ships. The system requires no special devices on the vessels. As the water level in the lock is raised or lowered, the pads move up and down the walls with the ship, keeping it secured. The U.S. Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corp. (SLSDC) is considering installation of hands-free mooring systems for its two Seaway locks.

Meanwhile, Dufferin Construction of Oakville is replacing ship tie-up walls on the Welland Canal under an $86 million contract that runs to 2017. The job involves removal of the present timber tie-up walls and the construction of new tie-up walls using steel and concrete. The tie-up walls to be replaced are located alongside Lock 1, 2 and 3. SLSDC is considering additional infrastructure replacement projects for the next few years.

For 2014-15, the Seaway will proceed with almost $16 million of repair and upgrades at its Maisonneuve lock. In Niagara there will be timber wall replacement, rehabilitation of Lock 1 mitre gates and re-facing of the Lock 3 west wall worth $7.6 million.