2018 shipping season gets underway

Algoma Niagara Captain Chesley Thorne with the traditional Top Hat, marking the start of the St. Lawrence Seaway’s 60th navigation season Thursday at Lock 3 of the Welland Canal, St. Catharines, Ontario. Photo by Kevin Hotte

The St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation celebrated its 60th navigation season Thursday Mar. 29/2018 with traditional Top Hat ceremonies in St. Catharines and in Port Colborne.

In St. Catharines at Lock 3 Welland Canal Centre the opening of the season featured the newly built Algoma Niagara.
“State-of-the-art ships such as the Algoma Niagara serve as a key part of the supply chain serving to bolster the competitiveness of North American industry. Over 227,000 jobs are supported by cargo moving over the Great Lakes/Seaway System,” a press release from the Chamber of Marine Commerce said.

In his opening address Terry Bowles, President and CEO of The St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation (SLSMC) noted that 2018 marks both the 60th navigation season for the waterway and the 20th anniversary of the SLSMC. The SLSMC was created in 1998 as a not-for-profit corporation succeeding the former St. Lawrence Seaway Authority.

The Algoma Niagara was the Opening ship marking the start of the St. Lawrence Seaway’s 60th navigation season Thursday at Lock 3, Welland Canal, St. Catharines, Ontario. Photo by Kevin Hotte

“We are very pleased to celebrate 20 years of progress,” Bowles said. “Since 1998, the SLSMC has worked collectively with its partners to reinforce the Seaway’s competitiveness as a vital transportation artery. From being the first inland waterway in North America to implement AIS in 2003 which enables the precise monitoring of ship locations by satellite, to the recent completion of our Hands-Free Mooring system which was recognized by the OECD as a great example of innovation, the SLSMC has been at the forefront of progress within the marine industry. Our modernization program, including Hands-Free Mooring, brings about the greatest advancements in Seaway operations since its inception 60 years ago.”

Since its inception, the SLSMC has invested over $1 billion in asset maintenance, many parts of the infrastructure dating back to 1959, in the Montreal-Lake Ontario section, and 1932 in the Welland Canal Section have been renewed. Of note are the recent rebuilding of tie-ups walls representing an investment of $100 million.

“Our steadfast commitment to maintenance and asset renewal enables the St. Lawrence Seaway to uphold its excellent record of system reliability, consistently registering above 99% year-after-year,” Bowles said.

“The close collaboration between the two Seaway corporations has been a model of binational cooperation,” said Craig H. Middlebrook, Deputy Administrator of the U.S. Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation about SLSMC’s anniversary. “For the past twenty years, we have been fortunate to work with exceptional leaders and partners at the SLSMC, beginning with Guy Veronneau, his successor Dick Corfe, and presently, Terence Bowles. We look forward to continuing to build on the tremendous progress we have made together for our two countries and for the Great Lakes St. Lawrence Seaway region.”

“The Algoma Niagara is part of a multi-billion dollar fleet renewal program undertaken by ship owners who frequent the St. Lawrence Seaway, underlining the industry’s strong degree of confidence in the future of the waterway,” the press release from the Chamber of Marine Commerce says. “As the most energy efficient means of moving cargo with the lowest carbon footprint, these newly built ships play an important role in supporting both economic growth and enhanced trade in a highly sustainable manner.”

“The Seaway’s modernization program coupled with the marine industry’s fleet renewal positions the waterway as a highly competitive transportation system.”

“As we enter the 60th navigation season, the Seaway has the capacity to double its current tonnage within its existing locks and channels. The stage has been set for a St. Lawrence Seaway that will effectively serve its stakeholders for decades to come, with strong advancements in efficiency, safety, and flexibility to respond to varying market conditions,” Bowles said.

In Port Colborne, this year our ship did not come in. The Algoma Enterprise was sent out to pick up a load of coal and was not able to return in time for the ceremonies. The ship was due to arrive around 12:30 a.m. Friday Mar. 30/2018 at which time the Captain was presented with the top hat.

Port Colborne Mayor John Maloney with the top hat used for the official ceremony.

The Fair Trade Committee kicked off the morning with a breakfast featuring fair trade foods. The Town Crier, Dr. Tom Pekar, called everyone together to start the festivities.

“The opening of the 189th Opening of the Welland Canal, it is a significant part of history here in Niagara,” Alan Caslin, Niagara Region, Regional Chair, said to the crowd. “We are the only region in the area that has a canal that transverses the entire region.”

Mayor of Wainfleet, April Jeffs said, “it is a sure sign of spring to be here at the top hat ceremony.”

“We are up 18 percent in traffic last year for the Welland Canal, which as you mentioned it means the bridges go up a little more, we’re sorry for that, but we look forward to a good season,” explained Cassie Kelly, Manager of Engineering, The St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation in the Niagara Region. “This year we are hoping for about 40 million tonnes of cargo to go through and we appreciate all of the good spirits of those in town” Investments made in the canal this year were hands free moorings at the other locks, Lock 8 will still remain manned. “We are the first automated shipping canal in the world”

The top hat made from beaver felt, is a turn of the century hat from London, England and only comes out for the top hat ceremony. The captain is presented with a replica to keep.

 


 

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