St. Lawrence Seaway freezes tolls for 2011

With grain and other traffic on the St. Lawrence Seaway well up from an underwhelming 2009, the waterway’s managers plan to keep up forward momentum by freezing navigation tolls.

An extra year with no toll hike “will assist our stakeholders in their efforts to develop new business and will serve to reinforce the Great Lakes/St. Lawrence Seaway System’s position as the gateway to North America’s heartland,” Bruce Hodgson, director of market development for the St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corp., said in a release Friday.

The corporation last week reported a 15.46 per cent increase in overall tonnage handled on the seaway during its 2010 season, compared to 2009 levels. Grain tonnage rose 10 per cent year over year, the SLSMC said.

The St. Lawrence/Great Lakes system is considered the gateway for Western Canada’s grain growers in exporting to Europe, Africa and South America.

General seaway cargo, which includes iron and steel break-bulk shipments and “project cargo” such as wind turbine parts, was up 63 per cent, while iron ore tonnage was up 35 per cent.

Looking ahead, the federal government’s move in October to end a 25 per cent duty on imported vessels has “ushered in a new era of fleet renewal,” the corporation said last week.

Algoma Central Corp. and the CSL Group have recently announced plans to buy new vessels designed for the Seaway/Great Lakes system, the SLSMC noted.

With growth opportunities in mind, “we are striving to reduce the cost and complexity of the system and attract new cargo,” SLSMC CEO Terence Bowles said in Friday’s release. “The extension of the toll freeze, coupled with various incentive programs, represents tangible steps toward meeting these objectives.”

The seaway’s 2010 navigation season lasted 280 days, ending Dec. 29 on the seaway and Dec. 30 on the Welland Canal.

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