Seaway sees big increases in fertilizer, petroleum products

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by Emily Atkins

More than 36 million tonnes of cargo transited the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway system during the 2022 navigation season.

The Canadian St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation (SLSMC) and U.S. Great Lakes St. Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation (GLS) announced their 2022 results earlier this week.

“Seaway traffic results show positive trends amongst certain commodities, which demonstrates our system’s ability to quickly adapt to changes in the market,” said Terence Bowles, president and CEO of the SLSMC.

“It’s this agility that enables the Seaway to respond to changes and act on emerging opportunities, such as shifting trade patterns resulting from global events. In addition, we are working closely with partners to develop lands along the Seaway, which will benefit both the economy and local communities.”

U.S. and Canadian producers helped mitigate global issues affecting fertilizer supplies, which drove significant growth in potash, up over 100 percent compared to 2021. Dry bulk commodities, including coke, salt and potash, contributed over 11 million tonnes of the 2022 total.

Petroleum products were up nearly 28 percent over last year, due to increased passenger travel.

U.S. grain exports increased, and although month-over-month Canadian grain performed well, it did not match last year’s results. The effects of the 2021 drought in the Canadian prairies impacted export movements at the beginning of the 2022 season. That said, the improved 2022 grain harvest is expected to result in a strong start for 2023.

An increase of vessel transits, including expanded cruise ship activity in the Great Lakes helped contribute to tourism and economic development in Canada and the United States.

2022 Seaway results

“Through decades of investment and reliability, the Great Lakes are uniquely positioned to weather upheavals in the global supply chain,” said Adam Tindall-Schlicht, administrator of the GLS.

“The Seaway System is a leading example of a worldwide economically-resilient and environmentally-sustainable shipping corridor, and optimism is high for expansion of trade on the Great Lakes in 2023.”

The last commercial transit of the 2022 navigation season through the Montreal-Lake Ontario (MLO) section of the Seaway occurred on January 1st. The Welland Canal closed on January 9, 2023, marking the conclusion of the fourth year of the Welland Canal season extension pilot program.

From now until the opening of the 2023 season, the SLSMC and GLS will carry out maintenance work on critical lock and maritime assets, ensuring the Seaway system continues to deliver safe and reliable service year after year by managing its assets efficiently.

Though there continues to be some uncertainty with regards to economic growth in 2023, the Seaway Corporations will work on key initiatives to further support expanding trade on the Great Lakes. These include facilitating the establishment of green shipping corridors, expanding land development along SLSMC-owned canals, and developing innovative technologies, such as the Vessel Information System.

“It’s this spirit of continuous improvement and agile performance that make the Seaway a relevant transportation system today, and an integral part of future solutions,” Bowles said.

The Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway system extends 3,700 km from the Atlantic Ocean to the Great Lakes. Shipping through the Seaway supports over 329,000 jobs and $59 billion in economic activity in Canada and the United States. Binational marketing development efforts, including the “HwyH2O” initiative, aim to enhance Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway System utilization and increase marine cargo shipping.

The St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation was established in 1998 as a not-for-profit corporation by the Government of Canada, Seaway users and other key stakeholders. In accordance with provisions of the Canada Marine Act, the Corporation manages and operates the Canadian assets of the St. Lawrence Seaway, which remain the property of the Government of
Canada, under a long-term agreement with Transport Canada.

The Great Lakes St. Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation (GLS), an operating administration of the U.S. Department of Transportation, is a wholly-owned government corporation created by statute on May 13, 1954, to construct, operate, and maintain that part of the St. Lawrence Seaway between the Port of Montreal and Lake Erie, within the territorial limits of the United States. Formerly the Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation (SLSDC), the GLS was legally renamed as part of the 2021 Consolidated Appropriations Act as signed into U.S. law on December 27, 2020.