The St. Lawrence Seaway System Celebrates 60 Years
by Sherry Hanes
It’s the 60th anniversary year of the biggest engineering achievement in Canadian History…Sea what we’ve done! So! Sit down in your captains’ chair, and relax…because you’re going to find this very interesting! Our St. Lawrence Seaway System… AKA, our Marine Highway, ‘Hwy H20’, ‘The Water Stairs’… we share with you, the extreme importance of this engineering feat of the 20th century, that has literally transformed our nation, our economy, AND opened commerce to the world> Tim Heney, CEO, Port of Thunder Bay,>“ It is a celebration of the 60th anniversary year of the seaway system this year. The seaway system is the biggest waterway in the world and the biggest engineering achievement in Canadian History built over 4 years.”Part I –‘HWY h20’-‘the water stairs’> Our ‘seaway locks system, or as some like to refer to it as, ‘Hwy H20’ or ‘The Water Stairs’, plays an extremely vital role in our economic
growth and development, for country and commerce. From manufacturing, production, employment and demography, on a national and international scale, without the seaway system, many, if not all, production and manufacturing would be minimized due to lack of proper and or, expedient transportation of such goods.
The Great Lakes/Seaway System, the “marine highway” stretches 3,700 km, (2299.073 milies) that extends from the Atlantic Ocean through the Great Lakes, which begins in Montreal Quebec and ends in Thunder Bay Ontario for Canadian side and Duluth Minnesota for the U.S. side and for which, over 200 million tons of cargo travel on the waterway, on an annual basis.
Initiated in 1954 and completed in 1959, building the Seaway required: Some 22,000 workers, moving 210 million cubic yards of earth and rock and pouring over 6 million cubic yards of concrete.
In 1998, years after the seaway locking system was developed, The Port of Thunder Bay, successor to, The Thunder Bay Port Authority, was created by the Canada Marine Act. The 19 port authorities created by the act were 19 of the 20 most economically significant ports in
(The St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation, the successor to the St. Lawrence Seaway Authority, was established in 1998 as a not-for-profit corporation by the Government of Canada, Seaway users and other key stakeholders. In accordance with provisions of the Canada Marine Act, the Corporation manages and operates the Canadian assets of the St. Lawrence Seaway, which remain the property of the Government of Canada, under an agreement with Transport Canada.)
North Superior Publishing Inc. presents to you, our interview with Mr. Tim Heney, Chief Executive Office of The Port of Thunder Bay, located at 100 Main Street, Thunder Bay ONT. P7B6R9, under the Ministry of Transportation. Mr. Tim Heney, C.E.O., shares with us, information we would otherwise not have any idea about, when it comes to our port or its operations.
Over the past 150 years:
Mr. Heney: “There’s been a waterway pass by Niagara Falls since 1845, so when we talk about the 60th year anniversary under the Thunder Bay Port Authority, it’s actually the anniversary of the canal in its current configuration. In other words, the canal has gone through a few changes over the years, making it bigger each time, so the last configuration worked with to date, is 60 years old.”
Thunder Bay has been a grain port, using the waterways since the 1800’s. James Richardson, owner of James Richardson International’s Terminal Thunder Bay, celebrated 100 years in in business, in 2018, using this waterway. With terminals on the West coast as well, in Eastern Canada, Richardson is focused on grain handling and merchandising, serving growers in Ontario and Québec through its port terminal elevators in Hamilton, Ontario, Thunder-Bay, Ontario and Sorel, Québec. Thunder Bay port is a hub for grain shipments to the U.S., Mexico and South America. Operating any part of any shipping port facility, comes with, not only huge responsibilities on so many levels, but demands special skill and navigation (if you will) for its safe and effective operation. What happens in this port, or doesn’t happen, as the case may be, affects, not only the commerce of community but, international business and relationships as a whole. So, everything, literally everything, must run ‘Shipshape!’
Mr. Heney: “In the early days, for many, many years, before the improvements to the port, smaller boats called canallers were used, and they would go down the canal and would transfer the grain, so there was a lot more handling of the grain. You get by Niagara Falls in smaller ships but not in the larger ones. The latest configurations allowed ocean going ships to now have access to greater seaways by mandating the locks to be 750 feet long and 80 feet wide. Prior to that, the locks were a lot smaller. Having completed the configurations 60 years
ago, it was considered the largest engineering project of the 20th century, mostly Canadian driven too. The American’s didn’t really want the seaway, but what finally brought them on board was the post WWII, giant hydro-electric project which was the largest hydro projects in North America. So, when the Americans found that they could share in the hydro, that’s what made them very interested in the seaway. The project comprised of building a huge power dam across the St. Lawrence River, and is, to date, shared equally between Canada and the United States.”
(The Moses-Saunders Power Dam, short for Robert Moses-Robert H. Saunders Power Dam, is a dam on the River straddling the border between the United States and Canada. It is located between Massena in New York and Cornwall in Ontario. The dam supplies water to two adjacent power stations, the United States' 912 MW St. Lawrence-Franklin D. Roosevelt Power Project and Canada's 1,045 MW R.H. Saunders Generating Station. Constructed between 1954 and 1958, the dam created Lake St. Lawrence and is part of a larger project called the Saint Lawrence Seaway. Aside
from providing significant amounts of renewable power, the dam regulates the St. Lawrence River and affords passage for the navigation of large vessels. Despite the enormous economic advantages to the dam, it required the relocation of 6,500 people and caused harm to the surrounding environment. Positive efforts have been made over the years to improve shoreline and fish habitats)
Mr. Heney: “These ports are the furthest west for Canadian and American shipping ports, which extends all the way down to Montreal, Quebec through the St. Lawrence Seaway, which happens to be the world’s largest inland waterway considering the lakes and everything that is hooked together with the seaway. It is a pretty remarkable system really! The seaway itself, took four and a half years to build and it was extremely complex to build at the time. The seaway has led to the development of Canada in a lot of ways, creating a huge positive impact on the economic diversity for, not only our nation, but the United States as well. The seaway was built largely for transporting Canadian grain and iron ore, which were the main products carried by sea at the time and it has made Thunder Bay, the largest grain port in the world, at the peak.”
Shipping iron ore products, which was mined at Steep Rock Lake Ontario, (Atikokan area) since 1945, into the late 60’s, has yielded about ten million tons of high-grade iron ore of this long-famous Precambrian area. Operations of Steep Rock ceased to operate sometime in the late 60’s, but because the seaway was ‘open for business’, the mine at Steep Rock, employed many people during its time, which provided steady income for viable family life. Everyone enjoyed the fruitions of this enterprising venture, through transportation access availability.
Second World War: It goes without saying, a pivotal change came for Canada and the United State as they experienced the certain effects during and after this time period.Mr. Heney: “A lot of these things were around after WWII. The war, which left its mark on a lot of people raised concerns, for iron ore and steel productions, along with power consumption during the war effort. In hide sight, power consumption was a big concern for the Americans, and it was this reason they decided to come on board with the Canadians for the seaway project, due to the fact that they had used all available power to them, during war production. They were looking around at the amount of power used for production and realized they needed more power. The new attitude post WWII, for Canada and the United States, was a feeling of ‘one could almost do anything as a nation’, which lead to the idea to build the seaway as we know it today.”
On April 25, 1959, Icebreaker D’Iberville, began the first through transit of the St. Lawrence Seaway. This project was decades in the making and has radically transformed North American maritime commerce. The seaway officially opened on June 26 of the same year, when Queen Elizabeth II and U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower later set sail, cruising through the lock at St-Lambert, near Montreal, aboard Royalyacht HMY Britannia, which brought them all the way to Thunder Bay.
The massive undertaking of this project, actually mandated diverting waterways and the removal of towns in some parts along the stretch of the St. Lawrence shore in Eastern Ontario, which had to be flooded to allow the two projects - the Seaway canals and locks, and the Moses-Saunders Power Dam, to happen. The flooding allowed for the hydro production at Cornwall, but was also needed to provide the water to the Eisenhower and Snell locks and the Wiley-Dondero Canal, new infrastructure needed to get the ocean-going vessels around the hydro dam, noted Jim Brownell, a former Liberal MPP for the Cornwall area. The flooding eliminated six Ontario villages and three hamlets in the summer of 1958, forcing the relocation of their inhabitants. The villages of Mille Roches, Moulinette, Wales, Dickinson’s Landing, Farran’s Point, and Aultsville, along with the hamlets of Maple Grove, Santa Cruz and Woodlands, and the farming community of Sheik’s/Sheek’s Island, were abandoned and flooded.Mr. Heney: “The Flight Locks around St. Catharines, was the biggest part of it as there is 8 locks there that lifts you past Niagara Falls.” The cost: In the 1950’s, according to the St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation, the cost of the navigation project was $470.3 million (Cdn), of which Canada paid $336.5 million and the U.S. $133.8 million. That was then...imagine what it would cost now? ... if you are even lucky enough to get a permit?
Part II – ‘a river runs through it’ - 8 states, 2 provinces, 2 countries
Mr. Heney: “One thing I like to do, when I talk about the seaway is, what we like to do is put down facts, things you don’t know about the seaway. There are all kinds of things, for example, the seaway lifts the ships about 602 feet above sea level to get here. There are 16 locks systems and each has to lift the ships approximately 40 feet each. Just the size, the distance…like it’ s longer to get from
Thunder Bay to the Atlantic, than it is to cross the Atlantic…it’s about 2300 miles with all the lifts. There is no other seaway anywhere in the world that comes close to this seaway. And it is underutilized and it’s kind of strange like, there are a lot of political reasons for that. It runs through eight states, two provinces and two countries. It has a lot of complications around how it’s viewed.”
When it comes to the stats on products being shipped, each unit of grain for example, is measured in weight by the tonne (metric ton is spelled tonne). In this next segment of conversation, we will cast some light on the size of the daily operations of the harbour, which our Port of Authority is responsible for.Since 1959, more than 2.5 billion tonnes of cargo estimated at $375 billion have moved to and from Canada, the United States, and nearly fifty other nations.Almost 25% of Seaway traffic travels to and from overseas ports, especially in Europe, the Middle East and Africa.Availability of a specialized Laker fleet for maximum efficiency; many equipped with self-unloading devices for unloading at shore facilities (ship to land) or transshipping bulk cargo (ship to ship).Includes some of North America's largest ports, part of an excellent intermodal transportation network.Has maintained a near-perfect record of trouble-free navigation through ongoing improvements and meticulous maintenance for more than 50 years.Strategic geographical location: directly serves Ontario and Quebec to the north, and Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Wisconsin, Minnesota, New York and Pennsylvania to the south.
Mr. Heney: “A lot of people talk about the measure in bushels, the most common is, the farmers speak about it in bushels, but we talk about it in tonnes. One ship carries enough grain to feed the city of Toronto for three months, in terms of bread. And that’s only one ship…there are 400 ships a year that come through here. The cost for shipping grain, is approximately $300.00 a tonne and there are approximately 30,000 tonnes (spelling for metric measure) on ship. Basically, the seaway for us in Thunder Bay, we unload about 11,000 rail cars a month, 2000 – 2500 a week, which is more or less, 300 cars a day, that’s ninety-unit-trains a month. Definition of Unit Train: (A train in which all cars (wagons) carry the same commodity and are shipped from the same origin to the same destination, without being split up or stored en route). A lot of your trains you see, are CP (Canadian Pacific) main line trains that go East and a lot of that is containers. There are 42 trains a day on the CP that pass by the city, that’s not even counting the grain trains, so it’s like every half hour. A lot of the grain is taken…well…you won’t see it go by so much because it will be either dropped in Richardson’s,, (James Richardson International’s Terminal Thunder Bay) and the harbor is 22 miles long, so you don’t see all of it, you won’t see all the trains, some of it will be over on the mission. Then we have CN Rail (Canadian National Railway), which comes in by the airport and it the one that crosses through town and it doesn’t go past Thunder Bay, it is the dead end for it.”
As you can see, by reading this article, the operation is huge. In the early days, staffing such an operation, was also a huge part of everything running Shipshape. Today however, with technology and great advances in mechanical applications, things are a lot different.
Mr. Heney: “In the old days, there were 1500 guys in one elevator, and today there’s only about 50 and they can still do the same volume. People think the port shrank because there’s not as many people working in it but, it hasn’t shrunk, in terms of what it can move, because like everything else, it is automated. We used to use box cars but now it’s hopper cars. We just open up the chute and the grain falls out, where before the cars had to be shoveled out by hand. (Hopper cars are Gravity Discharge Hopper Cars. These cars have so-called “gravity” gates, which consist of a sliding metal plate at the bottom of each hopper compartment that can be opened and closed horizontally). Could you imagine doing that? I remember it. It was in my life time, but I didn’t do it, but I worked for the railroad, a Switcher Man for the box care and I worked as a Grain Checker, midnights in West Fort and also as a Hump Rider, where they used to bring in trains in box cars and they would be all mixed up and every elevator would have its share, so they would put the train up on this hump, which was a hill, and then let it go down and into different tracks that had electric switches, sort out all the cars per elevator and then take it over to the elevators. (Definition of HUMP for Hump Yard A raised section in a rail sorting yard that allows operators to use gravity to move freight railcars into the proper position within the yard when making up trains of cars. This is faster and requires less effort than moving cars with a switching engine). So, now it’s like the unit-train comes from the prairies to the elevator that it’s destined for.” The port activities still, however, require a large number of employees in order for the port to run efficiently.
Mr. Heney: “There’s about 900 people in total, related to the port directly.”
Part III – ‘Environmentally minded’ GREEN MARINE: The Corporation is an active member and proponent of Green Marine, a world leading environmental performance measurement program for the marine industry. The program encourages ports, terminals and carriers across North America to adopt best practices in terms of managing their environmental footprint. Subject to independent audit, participants have their respective performance measured via a series of criteria, including management of aquatic invasive species, emissions of greenhouse gases and air pollutants, prevention of>environmental impacts within waterways and lands, dry bulk handling and storage, stewardship of community issues, environmental leadership, waste management, and underwater noise. The Corporation aligns its scores with those of its U.S. counterpart, the Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation (SLSDC), and providesresults on an aggregated basis. The joint Green Marine assessment for 2017 revealed that the Seaway entities made notable improvements on a number of fronts, including the enhancement of measures to prevent environmental impacts to waterways and lands, and in the management of waste. Overall for 2017, the Seaway entities achieved an aggregated score of 4.5 out of a maximum of 5, an increase from the 4.3 score achieved in 2016. During 2017, the Corporation saw an increase in the volumes of organic waste collected by the community waste bins in its offices, with the objective of taking a lead in this activity, well in advance of the mandatory requirement established by the Province of
Quebec for the year 2020.
ENVIRONMENTAL MANAGEMENT SYSTEM: As part of its continuous improvement process, the Corporation continued aligning its Environmental Management System (EMS) with the ISO 14001:2015 Standard, and has now implemented 75% of its EMS work methods and forms. The objective remains to deploy 100% of the EMS by the end of fiscal 2019/20. Internal and external audits of the EMS are scheduled to begin in
The Economic Impacts of the Great Lakes - St. Lawrence Seaway System Cargo shipments on the Great Lakes-Seaway system generate $45 billion economic activity and 238,000 jobs in Canada and the U.S. From the earliest days of European settlement, the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River have been utilized as a means of transportation. Great Lakes cities were founded as trading posts along a vast marine highway that facilitated commerce in an era pre-dating railroads and highways. This relationship to the water has enabled the region to thrive and today, the Great Lakes- St. Lawrence region is the industrial and agricultural heartland of both the United States and Canada – with a combined GDP of more than $6 trillion U.S. dollars. This output would represent the third-largest economy in the world – behind the U.S. and China – if it were a country.Over the last 200 years, navigation improvements in both the United States and Canada have enhanced the waterway. The Welland Canal first connected Lake Ontario and Lake Erie in 1829, enabling vessels to bypass Niagara Falls. The Soo Locks have made the St. Mary’s River navigable, connecting Lake Superior to the lower four Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence Seaway. The St. Lawrence Seaway has tamed the St.
Lawrence River, enabling ships to sail from Lake Ontario to the Atlantic Ocean since 1959.This bi-national trade corridor complements the region’s rail and highway network and offers customers a cost-effective, safe, reliable and environmentally smart means of moving raw materials, agricultural commodities and manufactured products to and from domestic and global markets. Cargoes include iron ore, coal, steel, aluminum, machinery, stone, cement, grain, sugar, fertilizers, road salt, petroleum products and containerized goods. These cargoes become the staples of everyday
life — food and other household items; buildings, factories, roads and bridges; vehicles and planes; and the energy that powers cities and towns.Three distinct vessel-operator communities serve the waterway. These include U.S. domestic carriers (“U.S. Lakers”) transporting cargo between ports on the Great Lakes, Canadian domestic carriers (“Canadian Lakers”) operating between ports on the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence River and Canadian coastal waters, and ocean-going vessel operators (“Salties”), which operate between the region’s ports and overseas destinations. These carriers serve more than 110 system ports located in each of the eight Great Lakes states and the provinces of Ontario and Quebec.In addition to locks, ships and ports, a host of maritime service providers work to ensure the safe, reliable and efficient transport of cargo. These include stevedores, warehouse employees, freight forwarders, dockworkers, crane operators, vessel agents, dredging contractors, marine pilots, truck drivers and port rail operators, tugboat operators and shipyard workers.
Infrastructure Investment Survey of the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Seaway System
$7 Billion Makeover for Great Lakes-St. Lawrence ShippingThe investment survey, compiled by maritime trade consultants Martin Associates, tallies CDN $7.1 billion in capital spending on ships, ports and terminals and waterway infrastructure in the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence waterway. More than $4.8 billion has been invested in the navigation system from 2009-2013 and another $2.3 billion is committed to improvements from 2014-2018.Amongst the most significant investments, Canadian, American and international ship owners are spending $4.1 billion on the biggest renewal of the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence fleets in 30 years. The Canadian and U.S. federal governments, through respectively The St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation and the Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation, have dedicated close to $1 billion to modernize the Seaway’s lock infrastructure and technology over the 10-year period — the Seaway’s most significant transformation in five decades. And Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River ports and terminals are >also collectively investing more than $1.8 billion on expanding their docks, equipment, facilities and intermodal connections.
A Recreational TreasureEvery weekend, power-boaters and sailors weigh anchor and head out for relaxation and family fun. Some may cruise only a day, while others opt for one- to two-week trips, exploring the furthest reaches of the St. Lawrence River and Great Lakes.Helping attract non-resident recreational boaters to the region are several protected and picturesque waterways leading into the Lakes. The St. Lawrence Seaway System and the famous Erie (New York State Barge) Canal provide routes from the East Coast and Hudson River, while the Illinois Waterway System links the Great Lakes with the Mississippi River. On the Canadian side, the Rideau and Trent-Severn Canal systems lead down to the Lakes from the Ottawa River in the north.On any given weekend, thousands of U.S. and Canadian charter fishing boats cast off with eager anglers. Great Lakes fishing has even emerged as a competitive sport; serious fishing tournaments are annual events in many Great Lakes port communities.Tourists are also drawn to the Great Lakes by the spectacular nearby Thousand Islands of the St. Lawrence River, Niagara Falls, and the ample number of parks and recreational areas in the region. National, state and provincial parks and historic sites around the Lakes accommodate more than 250 million visitors annually on both sides of the border. Tourism in the Great Lakes is a burgeoning industry that pumps billions of dollars into the region and generates tens of thousands of jobs.Currently enjoying a resurgence in theGreat Lakes / Seaway System is overnight passenger cruising. A new generation of ocean cruise ships is now rediscovering the Great Lakes as an excellent cruise destination.2019 – The Seaway, described as the world’s longest inland deep draft
marine highway, celebrates its 60th anniversary. In a typical year, it is used by about 4,100 vessels. Cargo shipments on the system generate $45 billion of economic activity and 238,000 jobs in Canada and the U.S., according to the St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corp. Grain and iron ore account for more than half of yearly traffic.
The St. Lawrence Seaway itself, is the major facet of what our great country affords us naturally. Our forefathers and that of our neighbours to the south, have come together, to not only greatly improving the commerce of our two nations, but inadvertently, through foresight, and shear, extreme, human manpower of thousands of workers, endured unheard of industrial and elemental conditions, utilizing
technology, to catapult mankind to the future we are so fortunate to bear witness and have acquisition of today. If there is any doubt, in anyone’s mind about what part our great seaway plays in our survival, advancement and contribution to mankind, take a trip through our seaways, and experience for yourself and that of your family, the greatness of this enormous undertaking. If I were a betting person, I would have to say that, many families will probably find that some, if not many, of their ancestors, contributed to the building of this great water highway and our nation.
Locally, The Port Authority Board of Directors, governs the management and operation of the Thunder Bay Port Authority, pursuant to the Canada Marine Act.
The Thunder Bay Port Authority is under the supervision of Canada's Federal Minister of Transport, and is responsible for 56 kilometers (35 mi) of shoreline, 26 km2 (10 sq. mi) of shore and 119 km2 (46 sq. mi) of water. The board itself, is comprised of seven members, appointed as follows: one individual is nominated by the Minister of Transport and appointed by the Governor in Council; one individual is appointed by the municipalities mentioned in the letters patent; one individual is appointed by the province in which the port is situated; and the remaining four individuals are nominated by the Minister of Transport in consultation with users and appointed by the Governor in Council. The individual appointed by the Province of Ontario is appointed by Ministerial Appointment letter. The term for each board member is as follows: Directors are appointed to hold office for a term of not more than three years, the terms being renewable twice only. A director serves no more than nine consecutive years on the board. Subject to the maximum consecutive years of service, if a successor has not been appointed at the expiry of a director's term, the director continues to hold office until her/his term is renewed or a successor is appointed.The Thunder Bay Port Authority Board of Directors are industry leaders, who bring significant experience to our Port Authority and they are as follows:
Greg S. Arason, Chair - Port User Director, John Aiken - Provincial Director, Tracy Buckler - Port User Director, Patrick Bushby - Municipal Director, Dianne Miller- Federal Director, Charla Robinson - Port User Director and Bonny Skene - Port User Director. Staff Members are: Tim Heney - Chief Executive Officer, Guy Jarvis - Director of Engineering & Harbour Master, Mel Parker - Comptroller & >Corporate Secretary, Chris Heikkinen - Communications & Research Coordinator and Christian Chukwu - Operations Coordinator.Tim Heney CEO Port of Thunder Bay, Ontario:“Thunder Bay is the second largest grain port in Canada and has increased about 25% recently after the wheat board change.”“ There are 8 operating grain elevators in Thunder Bay and we have the
largest storage and handling capacity in Canada. There are about 400 >ships a year here including 102 ocean ships. This year we are building a new $15 million building project to add to our storage capacity.”
Let our Thunder Bay Port of Authority know how much you value our habour and its contribution to our nation by sending them a ‘thumbs up’ or just a simple thanks on the links provided below:
The Port of Thunder Bay’s strategy is broadly defined by three strategic objectives:
· Diversify and increase marine cargo
· Invest in strategic infrastructure
· Promote partnerships & engagement
This year, the Port of Thunder Bay will be building a new $15 million building project to add to their storage capacity. The new building will be heated. The actual building has already been ordered and will be erected on the site.The site has been compacted for the last year with a large amount of gravel to make it ready for the building. This is one monumental, engineering feat, that every Canadian, near and far should be proud of. The personal pride, as expressed in this article, comes through, loud and clear for those who are at the ‘helm’ of this national/international operation.
We here, at North Superior Publishing Inc., hope you enjoyed this article and we thank Mr. Tim Heney, Chief Executive Office of The Port of Thunder Bay, for his valued time to conduct this interview. And we would also like to thank Chris Heikkinen, Communications & Research Coordinator, who was also extremely informative and to everyone else who contributed to presenting a ‘glimpse’ of our Port of Thunder Bay, and Highway H20 AKA, ‘The Water Stairs’.
Associated links for more detailed reads on our interesting Canadian history: