Inside Logistics

$7 Billion Makeover for Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Shipping

January 14, 2015

OTTAWA, Ont.–A new study reveals that more than $7 billion is being spent on asset renewal and infrastructure improvements in the bi-national Great Lakes-St. Lawrence shipping system.

The investment survey, compiled by maritime trade consultants Martin Associates, tallies CDN $7.1 billion in capital spending on ships, ports and terminals and waterway infrastructure in the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence waterway.

More than $4.8 billion has been invested in the navigation system from 2009-2013 and another $2.3 billion is committed to improvements from 2014-2018. Two-thirds of the capital (67 per cent) was invested by private companies with 33 per cent coming from government funding.

Amongst the most significant investments, Canadian, American and international ship owners are spending $4.1 billion on the biggest renewal of the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence fleets in 30 years, of which 56 per cent ($2.3-billion) comes via Canadian ship owners. The Canadian and U.S. federal governments, through respectively The St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation and the Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation, have dedicated close to $1 billion to modernize the Seaway’s lock infrastructure and technology over the 10-year period — the Seaway’s most significant transformation in five decades.  And Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River ports and terminals are also collectively investing more than $1.8 billion on expanding their docks, equipment, facilities and intermodal connections.

“Canada and the U.S. need world-class transportation systems for their industries to remain competitive on a global stage. Modernizing our structures and technology allows companies to export their goods more quickly and cost effectively. Marine shipping is vital to the success of Canada’s international trade strategy,” said Terence Bowles, CEO of The St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation.

The Chamber of Marine Commerce, one of the trade associations that commissioned the survey, adds that the right regulatory climate has been key for the flurry of capital expenditures, citing the Canadian government’s lifting of the 25 per cent foreign vessel import duty as a prime example.  New York State’s decision to not move ahead with unachievable standards for ballast water treatment systems, which would have effectively blocked marine ships from passing through the St. Lawrence Seaway, was also an important factor.

“These private and public investments are a tremendous show of confidence in the future of the Great Lakes – Seaway, a transportation gateway facilitating $35 billion in trade and supporting 227,000 jobs in Canada and the U.S. To keep that momentum going we will be working closely with our stakeholders and governments to make sure the right regulatory and investment climate exists for further economic growth and environmental improvements,” said  Stephen Brooks, President of the Chamber of Marine Commerce.

To quantify the amount of investment on the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Seaway navigation system, Martin Associates identified 628 stakeholders consisting of United States and Canadian terminal operators, vessel operators, port authorities, and government agencies to be interviewed.

Of the 628 stakeholders, 454 participated in the survey for a response rate of just over 72 per cent.

The geographic area covered by this survey includes investments in all portions of the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway navigation system from Duluth, Minnesota in the west to Sept-Îles, Quebec in the east. Facility investments at the Port of Montreal and at St. Lawrence River ports east of Montreal were included in the survey only if they were used to facilitate the movement of commerce to/from the Great Lakes.  Similarly, facilities at the Port of Chicago that primarily handle inland river barge shipments were not included in the survey unless they also serve Great Lakes deep-draft vessel cargo.