The St. Lawrence Seaway opened on March 26 for the 2001 navigation season, the earliest opening date in its history. Guy Vronneau, President of the Canadian St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation, declared the Seaway officially open at a binational ceremony attended by Albert S. Jacquez, Administrator of the U.S. Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation (SLSDC), shipowners and other interested parties.
As part of the opening ceremony, Ms. Judith Mueller, President of the American Public Works Association and Mr. Wally Wells, President of the Canadian Chapter of the APWA, presented plaques to both Seaway heads to mark last year’s award to the Seaway as one of the top 10 public works projects of the 20th century.
“The outlook is good for the St. Lawrence Seaway in the 2001 navigation year. Regardless of the softening in the North American economy, goods still need to be moved, and marine transportation remains the most cost-competitive and environmentally friendly way to do so. This season marks an important milestone in our use of new technology to improve customer service, as well. We are implementing a new automatic vessel identification system, which will make Seaway navigation even safer and more efficient, and by September, we will offer full e-business capacity on the joint Web site developed by ourselves and the SLSDC,” said Mr. Vronneau.
Last year, all the maritime interests in the Great Lakes basin – commerce, tourism, environmental protection and government – formed the Waterway Strategic Issues Forum to develop a strategic plan for the future of the system. The Forum will disband after it issues a final report early this year. Some earlier decisions, like the “virtual waterway” concept, one-stop e-business shopping, and a sophisticated automatic vessel identification system, are already being implemented.
A new binational Web site (www.greatlakes-seaway.com) is being developed in three releases, as a comprehensive source of navigation, commercial and environmental information about the Great Lakes St. Lawrence Seaway System. By September 2001, the site will be fully interactive and offer cargo matching, cost calculation and full e-business capacity.
The Seaway automatic vessel identification system (AIS) becomes operational this summer. In 2002, all commercial vessels transiting the St. Lawrence Seaway will be required to use AIS. AIS is based on a broadcast transponder system that, combined with Global Positioning System (GPS) technology and a computer display screen, toshows the exact location of vessels, their speed and heading on a “virtual Seaway” at the Seaway’s Traffic Control Centers and aboard ships. An additional display includes includes lock availability, vessels’ speeds and estimated times of arrival at the next lock, wind speed and direction, water depth levels, ice conditions, the next change of course for vessels, and safety-related messages that will provide ships’ captains with all the data needed to navigate the Seaway safely.
While low water levels in 2000 affected traffic in the upper Great Lakes, they did not hinder Seaway traffic to any great extent. The Seaway was able to maintain its full draft of 26 feet 3 inches for virtually the entire 2000 navigation season. The Montreal-Lake Ontario (MOLO) section passed 2,978 vessels carrying 35.4 million metric tonnes of cargo through its locks last year, and 3,351 ships used the Welland Canal to deliver 36.6 million metric tonnes. Traffic was down slightly from the 1999 totals, but remained within the average for the past five years.
The U.S., meanwhile, concentrated its work on Snell Lock. The SLSDC continued with a Five-Year Maintenance Plan, refurbishing lock-operating equipment, replacing concrete, removing asbestos containing control wires and replacing them with non-asbestos materials.