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The Avonberg carries wind turbine blades through St. Lambert lock in Montreal
The Avonberg carries wind turbine blades through St. Lambert lock in Montreal

Seaway projects cargo increase

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St. Lawrence Seaway officials are forecasting a cargo increase over last year. The first freighter of the 2011 shipping season rumbled through the locks in Montreal on Tuesday. David Sommerstein reports.

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The Dutch-flagged Avonborg eased into the St. Lambert Lock on the St. Lawrence River around 10 o’clock Tuesday morning.  It marked the 53rd season of the shipping lanes connecting the Atlantic Ocean with the Great Lakes.

The freighter was carrying 76 Danish wind turbine blades destined for Indiana.  At a press conference, St. Lawrence Seaway Administrator Terry Johnson said the windmill parts represented what he believes will be an increase in new cargo.

This could be, in my judgement, a really breakout year.  I think we’re going to see new business that no one ever thought we were going to get.

For the first time, Johnson said, that would include containers that have become the norm of global trade but which the Seaway has been unequipped to handle.

The lion’s share of the Seaway’s cargo will always be bulk.  Canadian Seaway Administrator Terry Bowles said the Seaway forecasts a 7% overall increase in tonnage this year, a sign of an improving overall economy.

Transportation of raw materials serves as a bellwhether for the economy as a whole.  Despite a volatile economic condition, we have reason to be cautiously optimistic regarding our various market segments.

Bowles said the tonnage increase would be led by strong demand for iron ore and grain from the Midwest.

On the same day, environmentalists blasted the Seaway for not doing enough to keep out invasive species.  Groups including Save the River of Clayton accused the Seaway of fighting tougher rules for cleaning ballast tanks.

Seaway officials say they support new regulations that are expected to come out this summer.

For North Country Public Radio, I’m David Sommerstein in Montreal.

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