A combination of a five-year freeze on toll increases, and incentives to attract new business have helped bring more cargo to the St. Lawrence Seaway-Great Lakes, says Bruce Hodgson, Director of Market Development for The St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation (SLSMC).

SLSMC decided to continue the toll freeze “to maintain the momentum un­der­lying the Seaway’s market development initiatives,” he added.

In light of the fragile state of the North American and world economies, “An extra year with no toll increase will assist our stakeholders in their efforts to develop new business, and will serve to reinforce the Great Lakes-Seaway system’s position as the gateway to North America’s heartland,” he stated.

“Additionally, there are a number of incentives in place to further act as a catalyst in business development, such as the New Business Incentive Program, the Volume Rebate Incentive Program and the recently added Service Incentive Program,” he explained. “There’s been a lot of interest in the incentives and now that the economy is improving, they could bring us even more traffic.”

The New Business provision dates back to 2008 when the toll freeze was implemented. Through that rocky economic period, the incentive has generated $12.5 million in additional revenue for the Seaway. In 2011 alone, it brought in 2.4 million tonnes of business and $3.5 million in income. The Seaway also established the volume and service incentives in hopes they will draw more cargo to the system this year, Mr. Hodgson said.

Terence Bowles, SLSMC President and CEO, says the company is “striving to reduce costs and bring more cargo into the system. The extension of the toll freeze and of the various incentive programs represents tangible steps toward meeting these objectives.”

In addition to more business, SLSMC’s priorities are “promoting the economic and environmental benefits of the marine mode, and leveraging technology to enhance the system’s performance.”

The Service Incentive Program offers a 20 per cent rebate on applicable cargo tolls for carriers that implement a new trade. The objective is to provide an incentive for carriers, and to assist them in developing and implementing a liner or semi-liner service from the Great Lakes’ ports to foreign markets.

This incentive is available to all carriers presently calling in the Great Lakes Region as well as potential service providers who are looking to expand their scheduled services.

The New Business Incentive Program offers a 20 per cent discount on cargo tolls over the course of three years for commodity/origin/destination combinations SLSMC judges as new.

SLSMC offers the following example: A vessel carrying a shipment of 10,000 tonnes of wind turbines transits the Sea­way. Its routing combination is confirmed as qualifying for the New Business Incentive Program because of a new port of origin. The application of a 20 per cent rebate would result in a savings of $7,012.

The Volume Rebate Incentive Program offers a 10 per cent reduction on cargo tolls applicable to incremental volumes meeting a set of criteria.  For example: A company ships 150,000 tonnes of bulk cargo above a pre-approved maximum volume in a year. After the application of the 10 per cent volume rebate incentive on the incremental volume, a saving of $25,269 is realized.

SLSMC has seen a lot of interest in these programs – numerous email inquiries have been received, and during presentations about shipping on the waterway, Seaway officials are often questioned about the rebate programs.