By ALEX BINKLEY
Encouraged by the positive response to the Seaway-Great Lakes economic impact study released last fall, Seaway agencies and shipping interests plan to promote it as much as they can this year.
It doesn’t hurt that politicians in both countries routinely cite the report’s conclusions when talking about the importance of the Seaway-Great Lakes.
The study spells out in detail the significant role the system plays in supporting the Canadian and U.S. economies. Some 227,000 jobs and $34 billion are generated by the waterway.
Since its inception in 1959, over 2.5 billion tonnes – valued in excess of $375 billion – has been transported via the Seaway. And there’s room for a lot more.
“We’ve got the message out,” says Raymond Johnston, President, Chamber of Marine Commerce. “Now we have to keep making the point about the waterway’s importance. We’re always looking for places on both sides of the border where we can present our views.”
Reminding politicians and the public about the new generation of freighters that are coming to the Lakes from CSL, Fednav and Algoma is another priority. “People don’t understand the significance of the new ships. The industry is transforming itself,” Mr. Johnston says. Improved fuel performance means a cleaner environment.
The quick response of the carriers to the sudden demand last year for export coal and iron ore shipments from the Great Lakes shows one of the strengths of the system, he continues. “The companies demonstrated they could rise to the occasion and that they look for opportunities.”
He remains hopeful that short sea shipping will get a real test on the Lakes, and that container shipments from Montreal and the East Coast coming into Hamilton and other Canadian and American ports in the Seaway-Great Lakes will become a reality.
Collister Johnson, Jr., Administrator of the U.S.-based Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation, says delivering the message about the impact study remains a priority “because it’s a big deal for us. The numbers are very large. We also have to make it clear how marine transport is important for the rail and truck sectors.
“This is the second consecutive year of increases in Seaway traffic and tonnage, reflecting the resilience of the North American economy.”
Terence Bowles, President and CEO of the St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation, says there are a lot of reasons to talk about the waterway. “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. 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,” Bowles added. “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.”