At midnight tomorrow, the St. Lawrence Seaway will officially close for the winter season, ending a very successful and productive 2010 navigation year.
Earlier this month, I had the opportunity to visit the dedicated men and women who work at the St. Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation (SLSDC) headquarters in Massena, New York. They informed me that the closing period is a very important and busy time at the Seaway, as it is their winter maintenance period.
This year’s maintenance period will be particularly busy with a number of asset renewal projects under way, including dewatering and covering locks. The SLSDC’s 10-year Asset Renewal Program represents the first comprehensive effort to reinvest in and modernize the U.S. Seaway infrastructure. Without such significant reinvestment in the Seaway, it would become increasingly difficult to maintain and keep open for business.
Our Seaway professionals met their goal of keeping the Seaway open to vessels 99 percent of the time over the last year, which is vital for commerce. In fact, a recent report found that 'the economic impact of a shutdown of either of the two U.S. locks would result in a loss to those dependent on this mode of transportation of $1.3-$2.3 million per day.'
The continued success of the Seaway is a sign that our nation’s economy continues to improve. In fact, Pristine Pharma is planning to open a pharmaceutical production facility in Massena in February 2011 in order to utilize the Seaway, and expects to hire many local workers. Pristine Pharma CEO Venkat Kakani remarked, “The close proximity to the St. Lawrence Seaway will also allow the company to ship its goods more easily to large markets."
I have no doubt that the winter maintenance period will be a very productive few months for workers on the St. Lawrence Seaway. Following this flurry of maintenance and modernization, the Seaway is set to reopen in late March for what promises to be another safe and successful navigation year.