The St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corp. has increased its incentives for new business, extended its toll freeze and picked an early opening date for the 2011 navigation season in a bid to build on last year’s rebound in freight traffic.
The seaway from Montreal to Lake Erie will open March 22, several days earlier than usual, even though long-term forecasts suggest there could still be ice in the Lake Ontario stretch as well as the upper lakes.
Ships may be restricted to daylight sailing until lighted navigation aids have been installed, the corporation says in an advisory. The U.S. locks at Sault Ste. Marie will open March 25.
The allowable draft in the Montreal-Lake Ontario section will be 26 feet three inches until the ice is gone or water levels rise. In the Welland Canal, the allowable draft will be 26 feet six inches from the opening.
Traffic rebounded by about 16 per cent last year, thanks to a revival of the North American economy. The corporation is offering incentives for carriers and shippers looking to expand their scheduled services on the Great Lakes. The program is intended “to assist carriers in developing or expanding liner or semi-liner services between the Great Lakes and global markets,” says Bruce Hodgson, the corporation’s director of market development. It offers up to a 40 per cent reduction in tolls and assists in the development of new export traffic and cargoes.
Hodgson says the corporation extended its toll freeze for another year “to maintain the momentum underlying the seaway’s market development initiatives. The effectiveness of the SLSMC’s business development initiatives can be witnessed with more than a million tonnes of new business in 2010.
“This reinforces the need to continue to promote the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway system by continuing to offer incentives that will highlight the benefits of the system and provide motivation to utilize the Continental Gateway Corridor.”
“We are striving to reduce the cost and complexity of the system and attract new cargo. The extension of the toll freeze, coupled with various incentive programs, represents tangible steps toward meeting these objectives,” said Terrence Bowles, the corporation’s president and CEO.