St. Lawrence Seaway Closes 45th Navigation Season

December 29, 2003

Cornwall, December 29, 2003 – The Montreal/Lake Ontario section of the St. Lawrence Seaway officially closed for the season on December 28, 2003, with the passage of the tug, Ocean Golf, through the St. Lambert Lock near Montreal, Quebec, at 03:56 hours. The Seaway opened its 45th shipping season on March 31 and remained open for 273 days in 2003.

The CSL Laurentian will be the last vessel to transit the Welland Canal this afternoon at around 15:00 hours.

“Although we aren’t setting any tonnage records yet, traffic was steady throughout the season and made substantial gains this fall,” said Richard Corfe, President of The St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation. “The laker fleet was solidly booked right through to the end of the season. I am also pleased with the initial reports on our new Automatic Vessel Identification System (AIS), which completed a successful first season of operation with enthusiastic reviews from shipmasters.” AIS became mandatory this year for commercial vessels plying Seaway waters from Montreal to Long Point, on Lake Erie. The system improves traffic management and increases safety.

Mr. Corfe also commented that 2003 saw the definition of a new Vision for the Corporation and the launching of the bi-national study of the Great Lakes/Seaway system. “The Canadian government and the Corporation are full partners in the baseline phase of this essential study,” he said. “This study will provide realistic information for decisions on where and how investments should be made in our infrastructure.”

In the meantime, the Seaway continues to automate its locks and bridges, and commenced this year a six-year project to convert lock machinery on the Welland Canal to hydraulic operation. Construction has also begun on a new operations control centre at the Glendale complex.

The waterway’s binational Web site is thriving. “We had well over a million page print requests in 2003,” said Mr. Corfe, “and our Web site traffic volume continues to grow at an annual rate of over 80%. Our new marketing video and e-business features, too, are proving popular with Seaway customers.”

In 2003, the estimated combined cargo passing through the Welland Canal and the Montreal/Lake Ontario sections of the system was approximately 40.87 million metric tonnes, about 1.3 percent less than in 2002. Iron ore was again a strong performer, with cargoes amounting to 10.87 million metric tonnes, up by 12.8%. Although Canadian grain increased by more than 6%, overall grain shipments declined by 6.1%. General cargo dropped by 37% compared to 2002 while other bulk cargo decreased by approximately 5%.

Estimated cargo traffic was about 32 million tonnes on the Welland Canal (0.8% less than last year), while traffic on the Montreal/Lake Ontario section was some 29 million tonnes, 2.4% less than in 2002. There were almost 4400 vessel transits within the Seaway.

The St. Lawrence Seaway System closes during the winter for maintenance on its 13 locks and connecting channels. This year’s winter works program is again a substantial one, amounting to $7.8 million in the Montreal/Lake Ontario section and $16.2 million on the Welland Canal. Work will include improvements to bridges, locks, communications and power facilities, roads, weirs, and walls.

The Seaway navigation season next year will begin in March on a day as yet to be determined. This is a special year as it marks the 50th anniversary of the beginning of construction of the Seaway and the 175th anniversary of the first Welland Canal.