I am happy to announce that yesterday marked the official opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway’s 2011 navigation season. Here at the Department of Transportation, that's an exciting sign that spring has truly arrived.
The start of the 53rd Navigation Season follows a very productive winter maintenance period, during which Seaway crews worked on a number of important asset renewal projects, including dewatering and covering locks.
Our St. Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation (SLSDC)’s 10-year Asset Renewal Program represents the first comprehensive effort to repair and modernize the U.S. Seaway infrastructure. Without such significant reinvestment in the Seaway, it would become increasingly difficult to keep our bi-national waterway open for business.
The Great Lakes-Seaway shipping system supports hundreds of thousands of jobs. As Stephen Wilkes of Tata Steel said at yesterday's opening, "Marine transportation plays a key role for the steel industry and its customers, enabling the efficient movement of raw materials, semi-finished, and finished products which directly contribute to the Canadian and U.S. manufacturing base."
SLSDC Administrator Collister Johnson Jr. noted at the opening that marine shipping continues to be the most energy efficient mode of freight transportation. "In an era of rapidly rising fuel prices," Administrator Johnson said, "moving more cargo via the marine mode will reduce our dependence on imported petroleum and bolster our national security."
I know that, however busy the Seaway gets this shipping season, our Seaway professionals will do their part to keep this vital economic artery open and ensure the safety of the cargo and crews passing through this important waterway.
Since the Seaway opened in 1959, more than $375 billion in cargo weighing more than 2.5 billion metric tons has passed through its locks. And this year, we expect to add another 39 million tons to this impressive record.
Best of luck to shippers and crews for a successful 2011 navigation season!