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St. Lawrence Seaway opens for 2014 shipping season

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ST. CATHARINES, Ont. - The St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation (SLSMC) marked the opening of the Seaway’s 56th navigation season Friday, with the transit of Algoma Central Corporation’s newly built ship, the Algoma Equinox, through Lock 3 of the Welland Canal.

The vessel is the first of eight Equinox-class ships that are being purpose-built for trade in the St. Lawrence Seaway.

“Algoma Central Corporation’s fleet renewal is a leading example of the unprecedented level of investment that is happening throughout our navigation system,” said Terence Bowles, president and CEO of the SLSMC.

“The Seaway alone is spending almost $500 million on modernizing its infrastructure – the biggest transformation in five decades.”

“The Algoma Equinox carries more cargo, sails faster, consumes significantly less fuel and is the first Great Lakes vessel to be equipped with a scrubbing system that virtually eliminates sulphur oxide from its emissions.

These advancements will benefit communities throughout the region and also ensure that our customers – North American industries and farmers – remain competitive on the global stage,” Algoma Central Corporation’s President and CEO Greg Wight said.

In concert with various domestic and ocean carriers investing $1 billion in new vessels, the SLSMC is investing $395 million between 2014 and 2018 to revitalize its locks and structures. Likewise, the U.S. Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation is mounting a $92 million effort over a comparable timeframe.

St. Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation Administrator Betty Sutton said, “The significant investments in Seaway infrastructure are positioning the Great Lakes St. Lawrence Seaway System for future growth.

“Our asset renewal program will do more than just rebuild the lock infrastructure; the introduction of new technologies will make the waterway even safer, more efficient, and more reliable. These investments signal a long term public commitment to shipping on the Great Lakes / Seaway System.”

In addition to its asset renewal program, the SLSMC is also moving ahead with the installation of Hands Free Mooring at all of its high lift locks. This investment over the next five years will enable vessels to be secured in a lock by means of vacuum pads, instead of by the traditional wire or rope mooring lines. Hands Free Mooring is a core element of the SLSMC’s modernization program, which promises to lower operating costs, increase safety, and provide greater ease of access into the Seaway for Seaway-sized vessels within the world’s merchant fleet.

In terms of the outlook for cargo volume on the St. Lawrence Seaway in 2014, the SLSMC’s Bowles noted that he continues to be upbeat. “Tonnage within the St. Lawrence Seaway is forecast to exceed a total of 38 million tonnes this year.

The U.S. and European economies are improving, and this trend gives us reason to be optimistic,” Bowles said. “We also expect to play a significant role in exporting Canada’s bumper grain crop to overseas markets.”

For decades, the seaway held an opening ceremony at Eisenhower Lock to mark the passage of the first ship through the American locks each shipping season. That practice has been discontinued in recent years.

Over 227,000 jobs and $35 billion in economic activity are supported by the movement of goods within the Great Lakes-Seaway System. For more information on the St. Lawrence Seaway, please consult the www.greatlakes-seaway.com website.

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