45th Seaway Shipping Season Underway with New CEO at Helm
(St. Lambert, March 31, 2003) - The bulk freighter Regina Oldendorff, under charter to Fednav Limited, eased into the St. Lambert lock on Monday morning, ushering in the Seaway's 2003 shipping season. Guy V+¬ronneau, outgoing President and CEO of The St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation (SLSMC), was joined at the opening ceremony by his successor, Richard Corfe, and by their American counterpart, Albert Jacquez, Administrator of the U.S. Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation. Other speakers included Richard LeHir, President of the Shipping Federation of Canada, and Don Morrison, President of the Canadian Shipowners Association (CSA). The Shipping Federation and the CSA are both celebrating their 100th anniversaries this year.
The Seaway, opened in 1959 by Queen Elizabeth and U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower, was commercialized in 1998 under a 20-year agreement with the federal government, which remains the owner of all the Seaway assets. Guy V+¬ronneau was the SLSMC's first President and CEO, with the mandate to oversee the operation and maintenance of the Canadian side of the waterway. Mr. V+¬ronneau retires today after successfully guiding the new Corporation through its first 5-year business plan, meeting or exceeding all performance targets.
His successor is Richard Corfe, who has held various executive positions with the Seaway over a period of some 20 years. A member of the Corporate Management Committee since 1995, Mr. Corfe became Vice-President of Maisonneuve Region in 2000, and Corporate Process Leader for Infrastructure Maintenance, responsible for all engineering standards, systems and planning.
Over 44 consecutive shipping seasons and the passage of more than two billion tonnes of cargo through its locks, the Seaway has continually upgraded its facilities and services. As Richard Corfe notes, "We are always looking to harness technology to improve customer service, and a lot of innovative tools have been implemented since commercialization. My predecessor, Guy V+¬ronneau, laid a strong foundation during his 5 years in office for a Seaway that will continue to serve as an efficient trade artery. We will remain very conscious of the need to provide cost-effective services on a safe and reliable waterway to our shipping clients."
On April 1, the SLSMC will begin its second 5-year mandate with a smaller executive team and agreement on a new Business Plan which projects increases in revenues and manageable costs of some 14% each. This places the Corporation in a sound position to handle upcoming challenges, particularly since the collective agreement with Seaway unionized employees has been extended to March 31, 2005, and there are signs of a rebound in traffic volumes in a number of key sectors, including steel and other bulk shipping.
In addition, Transport Canada has agreed to inject an extra $45 million into system maintenance over the next five years, bringing the total to $170 million, in recognition of the increasing demands of an infrastructure that is now 43+ years old (the current Welland Canal portion of the Seaway has been in operation since 1932). This investment will provide a much needed boost to a transportation artery that is energy efficient, environmentally sound, and a key source of competitive advantage to a wide range of industries within North America's heartland.
The Seaway gains an important tool in 2003 to improve its competitive edge, as it becomes the largest inland waterway in the world to implement Automatic Identification System (AIS) technology, a world-wide standard approved by the International Maritime Organisation. Carriage of AIS transponders becomes mandatory today for all commercial traffic on the Seaway.
Supporting the Seaway's commitment to improving efficiency and customer service is the binational www.greatlakes-seaway.com Web site. A repository of shipping regulations, information and e-business applications, the Web site is used by tens of thousands of customers and researchers every month.
With an eye to the future, the SLSMC is looking forward to participating in two studies with Transport Canada. The Marine Navigation Services Study will consider what means are available to streamline the provision of marine service by multiple government agencies to shipping in the St. Lawrence Seaway Great Lakes System. The SLSMC will also participate in the binational Great Lakes Navigation Review, which begins this year with a baseline review, to determine how existing Seaway channels and structures could be enhanced to maximize their value to all stakeholders in the 21st century.