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St. Lawrence Seaway 2003 Navigation Season Opens March 31

(Cornwall, March 7, 2003) - The St. Lawrence Seaway System will officially open on Monday, March 31. Guy Véronneau President and CEO of The St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation (SLSMC) and Albert Jacquez, Administrator of the Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation (SLSDC) will mark the occasion at the St. Lambert Lock on the outskirts of Montreal with brief statements to officials from the maritime industry, government, the media and the local public.

Originally set for March 25, the opening was delayed for six days because of heavy ice in several areas of the river as well as commercial navigation safety and environmental concerns. Seaway officials note this is the first-ever delay since the Seaway's inaugural year of operation in 1959.

The 15 locks on the Seaway from Montreal to Lake Erie permit ocean-going vessels and lakers to enter and exit the Great Lakes through the 190-mile long Montreal/Lake Ontario section of the St. Lawrence River. The SLSDC owns and operates two of the locks-Eisenhower and Snell--near its Operations Center in Massena. The other 13 locks are owned by the Canadian government and operated by the SLSMC.

The new season marks the mandatory use of the Automatic Identification System (AIS) from St. Lambert to Long Point, Ontario on mid-Lake Erie. A shipboard broadcasting transponder system operating in the VHF maritime band, AIS transmits and receives ship information such as identification, position, speed, heading to other ships and to shore. Based on Global Positioning System (GPS) and differential GPS technology, AIS communications protocols integrate fully into the Seaway Traffic Management System and its three Vessel Traffic Centers.

The opening of the new 2003 navigation season is the appropriate moment to renew the Seaway's commitment to providing industry and the public the safest inland waterway possible. The successful introduction of AIS last summer on a trial basis helped expedite the Seaway's ability to increase safety, security and efficiency for its stakeholders.

Maritime commerce on the Great Lakes St. Lawrence Seaway System annually generates more than 150,000 U.S. jobs, $4.3 billion in personal income, $3.4 billion in transportation-related business revenue, and $1.3 billion in federal, state and local taxes. The Seaway's economic impact for Canada is equally significant, serving as the gateway to a region producing two-thirds of that nation's industrial output and generating tens of thousands of jobs.

Last year's traffic tonnage totaled more than 41 million metric tons through both sections of the Seaway and there were 3,865 ship transits in the 40-week season.