Saint Lawrence Seaway
|St. Lawrence Seaway|
Logo of the St. Lawrence Seaway
|Length||370 miles (600 km)|
|Maximum boat length||740 ft 0 in (225.6 m)|
|Maximum boat beam||78 ft 0 in (23.8 m)|
|Maximum height above sea level||570 ft (170 m)|
|Date of first use||April 25|
|End point||Montreal, Quebec|
The Saint Lawrence Seaway (French: la Voie Maritime du Saint-Laurent) is the common name for a system of locks, canals and channels that permits ocean-going vessels to travel from the Atlantic Ocean to the Great Lakes, as far inland as the western end of Lake Superior. The Seaway is named for the Saint Lawrence River, which flows from Lake Ontario to the Atlantic Ocean. Legally, the Seaway extends from Montreal, Quebec, to Lake Erie and includes the Welland Canal. This section upstream of the Seaway is not a continuous canal; rather, it consists of several stretches of navigable channels within the river, a number of locks, and canals along the banks of the St. Lawrence River to bypass several rapids and dams along the way. A number of the locks are managed by the Canadian Saint Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation, and others are managed by the American Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation. The section of the river downstream of Montreal, which is fully within Canadian jurisdiction, is regulated by the offices of Transport Canada in the Port of Quebec.
The Saint Lawrence Seaway was preceded by a number of other canals. In 1871, locks on the Saint Lawrence allowed transit of vessels 186 ft (57 m) long, 44 ft 6 in (13.56 m) wide, and 9 ft (2.7 m) deep. The Welland Canal at that time allowed transit of vessels 142 ft (43 m) long, 26 ft (7.9 m) wide, and 10 ft (3.0 m) deep, but was generally too small to allow passage of larger ocean-going ships.
The first proposals for a binational comprehensive deep waterway along the St. Lawrence came in the 1890s. In the following decades the idea of a power project became inseparable from the seaway - in fact, the various governments involved believed that the deeper water created by the hydro project were necessary to make the seaway channels feasible. American proposals for development up to and including the First World War met with little interest from the Canadian federal government. But the two national governments submitted St. Lawrence plans, and the Wooten-Bowden Report and the International Joint Commission both recommended the project in the early 1920s. Although the Liberal Mackenzie King was reluctant to proceed, in part because of opposition to the project in Quebec, in 1932 the two countries signed a treaty. This failed to receive the assent of Congress. Subsequent attempts to forge an agreement in the 1930s came to naught as the Ontario government of Mitchell Hepburn, along with Quebec, got in the way. By 1941, President Roosevelt and Prime Minister King made an executive agreement to build the joint hydro and navigation works, but this too failed to receive the assent of Congress. Proposals for the seaway were met with resistance from railway and port lobbyists in the United States.
In the post-1945 years, proposals to introduce tolls still could not induce the U.S. Congress to approve the project. Growing impatient, and with Ontario desperate for hydro-electricity, Canada began to consider "going it alone." This seized the imagination of Canadians, engendering a groundswell of St. Lawrence nationalism. Fueled by this support, the government of Louis St. Laurent decided over the course of 1951 and 1952 to construct the waterway alone, combined with the Moses-Saunders Power Dam (which would prove to be the joint responsibility of Ontario and New York: as a power dam would change the water levels, it required bilateral cooperation). Congress in early 1954 approved an American seaway role via the Wiley-Dondero Act.
In the United States, Dr. N.R. Danelian (who was the Director of the 13 volume St. Lawrence Seaway Survey in the U.S. Department of Navigation (1932–1963)), worked with the U.S. Secretary of State on Canadian-United States issues regarding the Seaway and worked for over 15 years on passage of the Seaway Act. He later became President of the Great Lakes St. Lawrence Association to further the interests of the Seaway development to benefit the American Heartland. The Seaway was heavily promoted by the Eisenhower administration, who were concerned with the its locus of control.
The seaway opened in 1959 and cost C$470 million, $336.2 million of which was paid by the Canadian government. Queen Elizabeth II, Queen of Canada and President Dwight D. Eisenhower formally opened the Seaway with a short cruise aboard Royal Yacht Britannia after addressing the crowds in St. Lambert, Quebec. 22,000 workers were employed at one time or another on the project, a 2,300-mile-long superhighway for ocean freighters. Port of Milwaukee director Harry C. Brockel forecast just before the Seaway opened in 1959 that "The St. Lawrence Seaway will be the greatest single development of this century in its effects on Milwaukee's future growth and prosperity," while Milwaukee Association of Commerce president Lester Olsen saw "The magnitude and potential of the St. Lawrence Seaway and the power project stir the imagination of the world."
The Port of Montreal, which is officially the Eastern inlet to the Seaway, has welcomed ships year-round since 1964. The first modern container vessel was launched in 1956, and by the 1970s, container ships that dominate today had begun to change the shipping industry.
The seaway's opening is often credited with making the Erie Canal obsolete, thus setting off the severe economic decline of several cities in Upstate New York. It should be said, however, that by the turn of the 20th Century the Erie Canal had already been largely supplanted by the railroads, and that the economic decline of Upstate New York was precipitated by numerous factors, only some of which had to do with the St. Lawrence Seaway.
Since 1970 a new foreign invasive species has been discovered about every six months, and researchers blame overseas ships for nearly 70% of those invasions. In 1988, the zebra mussel was noticed, and regulations were soon put in place to mandate the use salt-water ballast, such as the National Invasive Species Act. However, a loophole in the regulations continued to be apparent to researchers well into the noughties. Another invasive species introduced to the Seaway is the Asian carp. Ballast water can also be a source of biohazards, and one researcher calls it "one the great ecological disasters of all time". The International Maritime Organisation has a Ballast Water Management Convention, but 10 years after the Convention was approved, it had been ratified by only 40 nations which accounted for 30% of world shipping tonnage, and was still not in force.
Great Lakes and Seaway shipping generates $3.4 billion in business revenue annually in the US. In 2002, ships moved 222 million tons of cargo per year. Overseas shipments, mostly of inbound steel and outbound grain, accounted for 15.4 million tons, 6.9% of the total cargo moved. In 2004, seaway grain exports accounted for about 3.6% of the nation's overseas grain shipments, according to the U.S. Grains Council. In a typical year, Seaway steel imports account for around 6% of the U.S. annual total. The toll revenue obtained from ocean vessels is about 25-30% of cargo revenue. The Port of Duluth shipped just over 2.5 million metric tons of grain, which is less than the port typically moved in the decade before the Seaway opened Lake Superior to deep-draft oceangoing vessels in 1959. Europe is no longer a heavy grain importer; big shipments are now going to South America, Asia and Africa. That makes Gulf and West Coast ports much more critical. "It probably did make sense, at about the time it (the Seaway) was constructed and conceived, but since then everything has changed," says a retired Iowa State University economics professor who specialized in transportation issues.
Certain Seaway users were concerned about the low water levels of the Great Lakes that were experienced in the decade since 2010.
Even though the Panama Canal had been completed in 1914, Seaway designers opted not to build the locks to match the Panama size, 1,000 feet long by 110 feet wide. Instead, they built them to match the smaller locks of Welland Canal, which opened in 1932, and are 766 feet long by 80 feet wide. The Army Corps of Engineers did a study to expand the St. Lawrence Seaway in the near future but it was scrapped in 2011 due to tight budgets. In the long term the Seaway is planned to be expanded in 2030. The expansion would allow container ships to traverse into the Great Lakes. The maximum height clearance would be 150 feet because of the Macinac Bridge, Ambassador Bridge, Blue Water Bridge, and in 2015 the New International Trade Crossing. Maximum water draft would be 35 or 36 feet compared to 27 feet now. The Port of Montreal at the end of the St. Lawrence River allows 36 foot drafts in the Estuary. The locks would be 1000 × 105 feet.
Compared to the Panama Canal or the Panamax the ship sizes wouldn't be as big on the New SeawayMax. The Panamax allows for ships that are 190 feet above the water line (air draft) and a water draft of 41.2 feet max. Ship length is 50 feet shorter and width is the same size as the expansion proposal.
|Locks||Panamax||Third locks [n 1]||New Panamax[n 1]|
|Length||1,050 ft (320.04 m)||965 ft (294.13 m)||1,400 ft (427 m)||1,200 ft (366 m)|
|Width||110 ft (33.53 m)||106 ft (32.31 m)||180 ft (55 m)||161 ft (49 m)|
|Draft[n 2]||41.2 ft (12.56 m)||39.5 ft (12.04 m)||60 ft (18.3 m)||50 ft (15.2 m)|
Locks in the Saint Lawrence River
- St. Lambert Lock—Saint Lambert, QC
- Côte Ste. Catherine Lock—Sainte-Catherine, QC
- Beauharnois Locks (two locks)—Melocheville, QC at and
- Snell Lock—Massena, NY
- Eisenhower Lock—Massena, NY
- Iroquois Lock—Iroquois, ON at
Locks in the Welland Canal
There are eight locks on the Welland Canal.
- St. Catharines, Ontario
- St. Catharines
- St. Catharines
- St. Catharines
- Thorold, Ontario
- Port Colborne, Ontario
Lock, channel dimensions and other useful data
The size of vessels that can traverse the seaway is limited by the size of locks. Locks on the St. Lawrence and on the Welland Canal are 766 ft (233.5 m) long, 80 ft (24.4 m) wide, and 30 ft (9.14 m) deep. The maximum allowed vessel size is slightly smaller: 740 ft (225.6 m) long, 78 ft (23.8 m) wide, and 26.5 ft (8.1 m) deep; many vessels designed for use on the Great Lakes following the opening of the seaway were built to the maximum size permissible by the locks, known informally as Seawaymax or Seaway-Max. Large vessels of the lake freighter fleet are built on the lakes and cannot travel downstream beyond the Welland Canal. On the remaining Great Lakes, these ships are constrained only by the largest lock on the Great Lakes Waterway, the Poe Lock at the Soo Locks, which is 1,200 ft (365.8 m) long, 110 ft (33.5 m) wide and 32 ft (9.8 m) deep.
A vessel's draft is another obstacle to passage on the seaway, particularly in connecting waterways such as the St. Lawrence River. The depth in the channels of the seaway is 41 ft (12.5 m) (Panamax-depth) downstream of Quebec City, 35 ft (10.7 m) between Quebec City and Deschaillons, 37 ft (11.3 m) to Montreal, and 27 ft (8.2 m) upstream of Montreal. Channel depths and limited lock sizes mean that only 10% of ocean-going ships can traverse the entire seaway. Proposals to expand the seaway, dating from as early as the 1960s, have been rejected as too costly, and environmentally and economically unsound. Lower water levels in the Great Lakes have also posed problems for some vessels in recent years.
While the seaway is currently (2010) mostly used for shipping bulk cargo, the possibility of its use for large-scale container shipping is under consideration as well. If the project goes ahead, feeder ships would take containers from the port of Oswego on Lake Ontario in upstate New York to Melford International Terminal in Nova Scotia for transfer to larger ocean-going ships.
A useful website hosts measurements of wind, water levels and water temperatures, and a real-time interactive map of Seaway Locks, Vessels and Ports may be of assistance. The NOAA funded Great Lakes Water Level Dashboard compiles statistics on water depth at various points along the Seaway.
To create a navigable channel through the Long Sault rapids and to allow hydroelectric stations to be established immediately upriver from Cornwall, Ontario and Massena, New York, Lake St. Lawrence was created through the flooding on 1 July 1958 of six villages and three hamlets in Ontario, now collectively known as "The Lost Villages". There was also inundation on the New York side, but no communities were affected. The creation of the seaway also led to the introduction of invasive species of aquatic animals, most notably the zebra mussel, into the Great Lakes Basin.
The seaway provides significant entertainment and recreation such as boating, camping, fishing, and scuba diving. Of note, The Old Power House near Lock 23 (near Morrisburg, ON) became an attractive site for scuba divers, the submerged stone building covered with barnacles and home to an abundance of underwater life.
The Seaway also provides a number of divable shipwrecks within recreational scuba limits (shallower than 130 ft (40 m)) The region also offers technical diving with some wrecks lying at 240 ft (73 m). Surprisingly, the water temperature can be as warm as 75 °F (24 °C) during the mid to late summer months. The first 10 ft (3 m) of Lake Ontario is warmed and enters the St. Lawrence river as the fast moving water body has no thermocline circulation.
On 12 July 2010, Richelieu (owned by Canada Steamship Lines) ran aground after losing power near the Côte-Sainte-Catherine lock. The grounding punctured a fuel tank, spilling an estimated 200 tonnes of diesel fuel, covering approximately 500 m2. The seaway and the lock were shut down to help contain the spill.
International trade and tourism
The seaway is important for American and Canadian international trade. The seaway handles 40 to 50 million annual tons of cargo. About 50% of the cargo carried travels to and from international ports in Europe, Middle East and Africa. The rest comprises coastal trade, or short sea shipping, between various American and Canadian ports. Among international shippers are found:
- Polsteam maintains a fleet of dry-bulk only vessels that transit every two weeks from the Dutch town of IJmuiden to Duluth, Minnesota
- Fednav Group, private international dry-bulk only ocean transportation group, with routes between the Port of Antwerp and Sorel, Quebec even in wintertime
- World Shipping Inc., a privately owned and truly global logistics operation
- Canfornav, a subsidiary of Canfor which does dry-bulk only and registers most of its vessels in Cyprus
- American Steamship Company, a subsidiary of the General American Transportation Corporation (GATX)
- Rand Logistics, which was formed from the acquisition of Lower Lakes Towing Ltd, and does not ship containers
- McKeil Marine, headquartered in Hamilton provides service to Arctic ports
- Groupe Desgagnes, owner of the MV Camilla Desgagnés, an arctic steamer
- the Port of Montreal plays host to the operations of
- Maersk Line, a unit of the A.P. Moller-Maersk Group
- Mediterranean Shipping Company
- Compagnie Maritime d'Affrètement / Compagnie Generale Maritime, a French transshipper
- Hapag-Lloyd acquired the Port of Montreal docks of, along with the rest of, CP Ships in 2005
- Orient Overseas Container Line, a Hong Kong based multinational
- Arrimage Quebec has stevedoring operations in Baie-Comeau, Becancour, Chicago, Cote-Sainte-Catherine, Gaspe, Gros-Cacouna, Hamilton, Matane, Oshawa, Pointe-au-Pic, Port Colborne, Port Weller, Portneuf, Quebec, Rimouski, Saguenay, Sept-Iles, Sorel-Tracy, and other ports in the Maritime provinces of Canada.
The Saint Lawrence seaway (along with ports in Quebec) is the main route for Ontario grain exports to overseas markets. Its fees are publically known, and were limited in 2013 to an increase of 3%. A trained Pilot is required for any foreign trade vessel, and the employment of these skilled personnel follows the law of supply and demand. A non-extensive set of rules and regulations are available to help transit.
Since 1997, international cruise liners have been known to transit the Seaway. The Hapag-Lloyd Christopher Columbus hosted 400 passengers to Duluth, Minnesota that year, and since then, the number of annual Seaway passengers has increased to 14,000.
Every year, more than 2,000 recreational boats, of more than 20 ft and one ton, transit the Seaway. The tolls have been fixed for 2013 at $30 per lock, except for the Welland Canal, where $30 pays for all eight locks between Lake Erie and Lake Ontario. Lockages are scheduled between the hours of 07:00 and 19:00 from June 15 to September 15.
A list of organisations that serve in some fashion the Seaway, such as Chambers of Commerce and Municipal or Port authorities is available at the SLSDC website and a 56-page electronic "Great Lakes St. Lawrence Seaway System" Directory is published by Harbor House Publishers.
- jsonline.com: "Sinking treasure" 30 Oct 2005
- "History of the Saint Lawrence Seaway". Infrastructure Canada. www.infrastructure.gc.ca. Archived from the original on 2008-06-25. Retrieved 2010-03-27.
- Fednav, PR Newswire: "Port of Montreal welcomes first ocean-going vessel of 2014" 1 Jan 2014
- jsonline.com: "Noxious cargo" 31 Oct 2005
- imo.org: "Ballast Water Management", consulted July 2014
- "Canada Marine Act (1998, c. 10)". Transport Canada.
- cbc.ca: "Great Lakes low water levels could cost $19B by 2050" 27 Jun 2014
- Manuel E. Benítez, ACP (2009-01-19). "Dimensions for Future Lock Chambers and "New Panamax" Vessels" (PDF). ACP. Retrieved 2010-05-02.
- Great Lakes St. Lawrence Seaway System Map, accessed 2009-07-05
- "Oswego Considered For Major Container Port: Plan calls for $3M facility to create first Great Lakes site handling global container shipments", by John Doherty. Syracuse Post-Standard, Wednesday, October 22, 2008
- Great Lakes St Lawrence Seaway System: "Environment Information"
- noaa.gov: "Great Lakes Water Level Dashboard", accessed July 2014
- "The Lost Villages". The Ottawa Citizen. June 28, 2008. Retrieved Feb 28, 2013.
- "A Glimpse of Morrisburg’s History".
- CBC News (13 July 2010). "Ship's fuel leaks into St. Lawrence Seaway". CBC. Retrieved 13 July 2010.
- "Introducing the Great Lakes/St. Lawrence Seaway System". Saint Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation.
- Quebec Commercial Certification Inc: "Fednav"
- Fednav schedules
- Bloomberg Businessweek: "Transportation Infrastructure - Company Overview of World Shipping, Inc."
- World Shipping home page
- Canfornav - About Us
- American Steamship Company company overview
- Rand Logistics "About" page
- McKeil Marine Ports of Call
- Groupe Desgagnes - Operations
- Quebec Stevedoring Limited
- "Wheat Export". Grain Farmers of Ontario.
- SLSMC: "Commercial Shipping Tolls Schedule"
- p.4 of "Cruising the Great Lakes St. Lawrence Seaway"
- SLSMC: "Commercial Shipping: Transiting the Seaway – What You Need to Know"
- p. 1 of "Cruising the Great Lakes St. Lawrence Seaway"
- SLSMC: "Recreational Boating"
- SLSMC: "Pleasure Craft Tolls"
- SLSMC: "Recreational Boating: Lockage Schedule"
- "Great Lakes St. Lawrence Seaway System" Directory, Harbor House Publishers
- Puccia Parham, Claire (2009), The St. Lawrence Seaway and Power Project : an oral history of the greatest construction show on earth, Syracuse University Press, ISBN 978-0-8156-0913-1
- Seaway Handbook issued by the St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation, (Head Office, 202 Pitt Street, Cornwall, Ontario, Canada K6J 3P7) 2006.
- Willoughby, William R. (1961). The St. Lawrence Waterway: A Study in Politics and Diplomacy. Madison, University of Wisconsin Press.
- Macfarlane, Daniel. To the Heart of the Continent: Canada and the Negotiation of the St. Lawrence Seaway and Power Project. PhD dissertation, University of Ottawa, 2010.
- Macfarlane, Daniel. Negotiating a River: Canada, the US, and the Creation of the St. Lawrence Seaway. Vancouver: UBC Press, 2014.
Media related to St Lawrence Seaway at Wikimedia Commons
- Tommy Trent's ABC's of the Seaway, a brochure for young people
- Great Lakes St Lawrence Seaway System web site
- The St Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation
- "Stairways to the Seas". Popular Mechanics, January 1959, pp. 97–103. Detail article with illustrations of lock system.
- St. Lawrence Seaway April 25, 1959
- Documents and Photographs relating to the St. Lawrence Seaway, Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library
- The Lost Villages Historical Society
- Excerpt from the Illustrated London News, January 11, 1862 describing the Canals of Canada.
- The Great Waterway: a site dedicated to tourism along the waterway from Lake Ontario to Cornwall and the Seaway Valley
- Exchange of Notes, amending 1959 Agreement of Application of Tolls
- CBC Digital Archives — The St Lawrence Seaway: Gateway to the world
- Bibliography on Water Resources and International Law See Great Lakes; St. Lawrence River and Seaway. Peace Palace Library
- Channel Depth and Width and Length[dead link]
- A film clip "Longines Chronoscope with George A. Dondero" is available for free download at the Internet Archive [more]