St. Lawrence grain traffic down in 2008

Lower levels of grain exports and steel imports have been cited as the main drags on the St. Lawrence Seaway’s 2008 shipping season.

The St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corp. on Tuesday tallied the shipping route’s total cargo volume for 2008 at 40.71 million tonnes, down from 43.01 million in 2007.

As of Dec. 31, when the Welland Canal stretch of the seaway shut its gates for the season, grain traffic for 2008 stood at 7.57 million tonnes, down 27 per cent from 10.41 million in 2007.

The Montreal/Lake Ontario stretch of the seaway handled 7.26 million tonnes of grain, down from 10.1 million in 2007, while the Welland Canal handled 6.89 million tonnes, down from 9.92 million in 2007.

Iron ore traffic was down slightly, while traffic rose slightly in the coal and “other bulk” categories. Other “general cargo” traffic, however, dropped 18 per cent.

The seaway’s 2008 season ran 280 days in total, ending Dec. 30 with a Coast Guard vessel passing through the St. Lambert Lock.

The seaway corporation cited a number of “significant achievements” during the 2008 season, such as the establishment of uniform ballast water management standards for all vessels. Canadian and U.S. inspectors ensure that no vessel is granted admission to the international waterway without first complying with ballast water management practices “among the most stringent in the world today.”

“Both seaway corporations in conjunction with the U.S. Coast Guard and Transport Canada play a vital role in helping to protect the Great Lakes against the future introduction of ship-vectored invasive species,” said Terry Johnson, administrator of the St. Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation (U.S.), in the seaway management corporation’s release Tuesday.

The St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corp. also sealed a new three-year labour agreement with its workers, represented by the Canadian Auto Workers (CAW). The contract, the corporation said, “includes the necessary flexibility for the corporation to move ahead with the development of new technology, which is expected to improve the system’s productivity and increase worker safety.”

The seaway corporation plans to mark the waterway’s 50th anniversary season with a special opening ceremony at the St. Lambert Lock in March. Queen Elizabeth II and U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower opened the lock at Montreal in June 1959.

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