Virtual Seaway about to make shipping on the waterway safer and more efficient

by Canadian Shipper

The authorities managing the St. Lawrence Seaway on both sides of the border have banded together to improve safety and efficiency by leveraging the power of the Internet and Global Positioning System (GPS) technology.

The Canadian St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corp. and the U.S. Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corp. have launched a binational website (, designed to become the major source for all information related to Great Lakes Seaway shipping. The site provides environmental data, including water levels and wind speeds, shipping and navigation information, rules, regulations and official forms, and links to every organization, port and government agency involved with the Great Lakes Seaway system.

The site is being developed in three stages. The first, which provides links and a search engine, is available now. Stage 2, with dynamic information, will be launched in May. The final stage, which will include cargo matching, a cost calculator, and e-business capacity, will be ready by September. By then, shipping companies will be able to do almost all their business with the Seaway online, from finding cargo to fill empty vessels on their return voyages to obtaining the necessary clearance to enter the Seaway and paying their bills.

Also in July, the Seaway’s Traffic Management System will incorporate satellite technology in a new Automatic Vessel Identification System (AIS). The system, built to International Maritime Organization standards, is based on a transponder and computer screen combination that will soon be carried by every commercial vessel that passes through the Seaway.

Using GPS technology, any vessel carrying the AIS transponder will transmit its exact location to the Seaway’s traffic control centres and to other ships in the waterway. The location information will be used at the traffic control centres to plot the ship’s progress on a virtual map of the waterway. In the meantime, information such as local wind speed and direction, water depth, ice conditions and safety-related messages will be compiled and made available to the ship’s captain.

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