As I’ve said many times, the St. Lawrence Seaway is a crucial part of our nation's transportation network, and vital to the health of the U.S. economy. After all, marine transportation remains the single most fuel-efficient and cost-effective way to haul goods from one place to another.
Recently, I was pleased to learn that, since opening for the season in March, grain exports being shipped from Seaway ports are up more than 20% from last year. This is exciting news for the U.S. economy that underscores the importance of maritime transportation.
And last month, Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation (SLSDC) Administrator Terry Johnson singled out two important Seaway ports, presenting the Cleveland-Cuyahoga County and the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authorities with our Robert J. Lewis Pacesetter Awards. The Pacesetter Award is presented annually to U.S. Great Lakes Seaway ports that register significant increases in international overseas cargo tonnage shipped through the Seaway.
During the 2010 navigation season, the Port of Toledo achieved a 16 percent increase in its international tonnage from 4,124,410 tons in 2009 to 4,798,487 tons in 2010, earning the Port its eleventh Pacesetter award. The Port of Cleveland achieved a resounding 64 percent increase in its international tonnage from 166,550 tons in 2009 to 273,280 tons in 2010, earning the Port its ninth Pacesetter award.
As Administrator Johnson said, “These are strong economic performances by important members of the Seaway System. Through their ongoing facility improvements and modernization projects, these ports are well positioned for further growth in 2011 and beyond.”
This robust increase in international cargo shipments is good news for the U.S. economy and demonstrates the importance of the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway System. For example, cargo that moves through the Port of Cleveland alone supports nearly 18,000 American jobs and $1.8 billion in economic activity each year.
I'm optimistic that this year’s strong start will mean continued shipping gains in the months ahead, and the Seaway will continue to enjoy another safe and successful navigation season.