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The fact is the Seaway is closed three months a year. Even then, it has to compete against rail rates.

Industry analyst skeptical of Seaway container growth

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We heard St. Lawrence Seaway Administrator Terry Johnson talk about bringing "containers" into the Seaway. Those are the norm of international commerce - all-purpose boxes that fit on ships, trucks, and trains. They can carry anything from paper clips to teddy bears to computers.

Seaway officials have trumpeted container traffic as a huge growth opportunity for the better part of a decade. Yet the infrastructure's still not in place. Few, if any, Great Lakes ports have the cranes to off-load containers.

Todd Moe reports at least one industry analyst is skeptical.

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We heard St. Lawrence Seaway Administrator Terry Johnson talk about bringing “containers” into the Seaway.  Those are the norm of international commerce – all-purpose boxes that fit on ships, trucks, and trains.  They can carry anything from paper clips to teddy bears to computers.

Most container ships don’t fit in the Seaway and containers would have to be off-loaded in Montreal or Halifax onto smaller ships that cruise into the Great Lakes.

Seaway officials have trumpeted container traffic as a huge growth opportunity for the better part of a decade yet the infrastructure’s still not in place.  Few, if any, Great Lakes ports have the cranes to off-load containers.

Leo Ryan, the editor of Maritime Magazine, remains a skeptic. Ryan said the biggest obstacle is that the Seaway’s iced over during the winter.

"The fact is that the Seaway is closed three months a year," Ryan said. "Even then, it has to compete against rail rates.  It’s not totally out of the realm of possibility, but it has to be priced competitively as well."

Ryan says there are some encouraging signs. This year a major Canadian shipping company on the Great Lakes invested in a new fleet of “green” freighters.

"To the point where the ships are going to consume much less fuel and will improve the carbon footprint, what footprint there is, by at least 40%," Ryan said. 

The fact that shipping produces less carbon emissions than trucking or railroads is the Seaway’s biggest selling point, according to Ryan.  The Seaway’s been positioning itself aggressively as a “green” alternative in a climate change future through a campaign called “Highway H2O”.

 

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