By Brian Dunn

The Saint Lawrence Seaway has a great story to tell and Betty Sutton, the new Administrator of the Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation, plans to tell it. “I believe more people need to know about us and not just in Washington and Ottawa,” she said during a recent luncheon speech to the Société de développement économique du Saint-Laurent (SODES). I think we need to do more to educate the general public about the importance and the efficiencies of using the marine mode to move goods. One of my priorities is to raise the profile of the Seaway.”

Ms. Sutton noted both the U.S. and Canadian manufacturing sectors showed signs of growth this summer. And of the ten states where manufacturing contributed to that growth, four were located on the Great Lakes, she pointed out. “This year, the U.S. auto industry saw its first upturn in six years. And car manufacturers are adding jobs at their plants in both the U.S. and Canada this year. That’s good news for the steel industry and in turn, that’s good news for shipping and for the Seaway system,” said Ms. Sutton, who doesn’t believe the choice is between jobs or the environment, but both. And new ships are playing their part by being greener.

One thing Ms. Sutton said she’s learned since being appointed Administrator in August is the Seaway and its users are always looking for new market opportunities. As an example of one, she referred to a new nonstop direct Express Ocean freight service between the Port of Cleveland and major Europe ports to launch next spring which will help the Seaway’s long-term sustainability. And while iron ore, coal, grain and steel will continue to dominate tonnage on the seaway, high value project cargo such as wind turbines will continue to increase. In fact, by 2050, wind power could meet one-third of the world’s energy needs, Ms. Sutton pointed out. Talking about energy, Ms. Sutton mentioned that the U.S. and Canada are the only commercially viable producers of shale gas in the world, reducing our continent’s dependence on foreign energy, she added. And the Great Lakes region is in a position to play a major role in that industry growth.

In the commercial marine industry, liquefied natural gas is the fuel of the future, further reducing shipping’s carbon footprint, while shale gas will produce new jobs and lower-cost energy in the region, noted Ms. Sutton.

The general public also needs to know about marine’s environmental performance, the Administrator said, noting that ships on the Seaway are seven times more fuel efficient than trucks and 1.4 times more efficient than trains. If Great Lakes shipping was eliminated, it would add 7.1 million more truck trips to our already crowded highways and add $4.6 billion in road costs over the next 25 years, said Ms. Sutton. “If more people really understood how vitally important the Seaway is to their standard of living and quality of life, we would be in an even stronger position today to realize the potential of our binational waterway.”

Citing a Special Report issued by the Bank of Montreal in May, Ms. Sutton noted that the Great Lakes region “accounts for 28 per cent of combined U.S. and Canadian economic activity. By comparison, the region’s output ranks ahead of Germany, France, Brazil and the United Kingdom and it would rank as the fourth-largest economy in the world if it were a country, behind only the U.S., China and Japan. Quite simply, the economic importance of the region can’t be overstated.”