(COURTESY ST. LAWRENCE SEAWAY MANAGEMENT CORPORATION)
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The 2020 navigation season for the St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation ended on December 31.
The last commercial transit to pass the Montreal-Lake Ontario section of the Seaway was the Federal Hudson ocean vessel on December 31, 2020. The vessel was transporting grain from Thunder Bay, the exact destination unknown.
“We closed activities at around 7:30 p.m.” said Jean Aubry-Morin, the vice president of external relations.
Last year marked 61 years of operation as the Seaway. Construction began in 1954 and required a large workforce consisting of 22,000 workers.
At midnight on December 22, the number of ocean vessels above St. Lambert was 21, just like in 2019, and above Port Weller, the number was five as compared to nine in 2019.
Morin said that the total amount of cargo that passed through the Seaway was a little less than 38 million tons. Ships are billed by weight with a rough estimate of $150 to $200 per ton.
“There was a lot of activity surrounding the COVID-19 situation where there were a lot of measures put in place to ensure the safety of the individuals on the vessels and on the ground, including the public and employees,” said Morin.
Their efforts appear to be extremely successful because since the pandemic began, there have been no reported COVID-19 transmission or cases declared on any of the vessels that transited the system, according to Morin.
“There was a lot of collaborative work done between the United States Coast Guard, Transport Canada, the Seaway and the US and Canadian pilotage authorities to be able to bring about this result,” he said.
However, Morin acknowledged that it was a difficult year at the corporation, but thanks to the resilience and competence of all the individuals involved, they were able to push through and still have a relatively successful navigation season.
The Seaway is made of two sections: the Welland Canal out in the Niagara region and the Montreal-Lake Ontario section.
The maritime and marine mode is used for dry or liquid bulk cargo – volume-driven cargo that is not time-sensitive like the rail or the road transits would be.
“It is what we call basic cargo for the economy. It is environmentally-effective because it is the most energy-efficient mode of transportation with the lowest carbon footprint,” he said.
Depending on weather conditions, the 2021 navigation system should reopen sometime in late March.