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Seaway Enjoys Good Year But Faces Uncertain Future

Little noticed and seldom mentioned in the media, marine shipping through the St. Lawrence Seaway and Great Lakes plays a major role in the economies of Ontario, Quebec, and eight American states.

The sector generates $34.6 billion of economic activity annually and close to 227,000 jobs in the two countries, according to a new study funded by the Canadian and American seaway authorities.

That s something government and business leaders should know, said Terry Johnson, administrator of the U.S. Seaway Development Corp.

We plan to start briefing and talking about the impact shipping on the Great Lakes has on everyone in the region, said Johnson.

The efficient movement of cargoes ranging from grain, iron ore, and steel products to heavy-lift specialty items such as wind energy turbines, enables our industries to effectively compete in a global marketplace, added Terence Bowles, president and CEO of the Canadian Seaway Management Corp.

People don t realize this, so we have to tell them how what we do affects peoples jobs and livelihoods. We have an impact on peoples lives.

But seaway shipping is under threat because of a proposal by New York s state government that would require freighters to have ballast sterilization equipment that s 100 times more effective than the international standard.

The problem, according to shipping lines, is that such equipment doesn t exist and isn t even in development. But since two of the seaway s 15 locks are in New York, the new rules if enacted could effectively shut down the seaway, and leave grain, iron ore, and other commodities stranded.

Johnson said his organization has presented the study s results to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo in hopes the proposed law, introduced by a previous governor, will be reversed.

Despite the ballast law threat, this year has been a turnaround one for the waterway.

While still a long way from operating at full potential, seaway traffic has climbed in 2011 despite a sputtering North American economy. The first of a flotilla of new ships designed for Seaway- Great Lakes cargo service arrived this year and ports bustled with economic development. And what at first looked like a poor year for grain shipping improved dramatically when crops on the Prairies improved. Grain shipping will now continue until the seaway closes in December.

But the future is uncertain, said Bowles.

The outlook is for slow economic growth in the immediate future, he said.

One positive move would be the successful conclusion of the Canada-European Union free trade talks, he said. More trade agreements with Latin American countries, like the one recently concluded with Colombia, would also buoy the prospects for the waterway.

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People don t realize this, so we have to tell them how what we do affects peoples jobs and livelihoods. We have an impact on peoples lives.

TERENCE BOWLES

PRESIDENT AND CEO OF THE CANADIAN SEAWAY MANAGEMENT CORP.

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