Seaway ends 2020 shipping season but could make up numbers in home stretch

Federal Beaufort locks through at Iroquois recently. Van Dusen photo, Nation Valley News

Tom Van Dusen 
Nation Valley News

IROQUOIS — With one of the most devastating years in history kicking its way out the door at midnight Dec. 31, the St. Lawrence Seaway beat it to the punch by 12 hours, officially ending the 10-month 2020 shipping season at noon today.

While not expected to match traffic and receipts from other successful years, when the math is done, 2020 won’t come out all that bad, said Jean Morin, a spokesman for St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corp.

Speaking to NVN New Year’s Eve, Morin said that while early on, Seaway traffic took a beating from COVID-19, the industry rallied by mid-summer and aggressively began moving cargo though the system, much of it in later months the result of a bumper grain harvest. Final statistics won’t be tabulated until early in the New Year, but the overall picture appears promising.

Morin confirmed the central Seaway — Lake Ontario to Montreal — officially closed for the season at 12 noon on the 31st; the Welland Canal closes at 12 p.m. Jan. 8, and Sault Ste. Marie Locks and Canal, Jan 15, to accommodate ships still circulating within the Great Lakes.

The central system is considered cleared after the final ship accepted for transit passes Jacques Cartier Bridge in Montreal; one domestic bulk carrier, Algonorth bound for Halifax, was expected to clear within hours while the last ocean-bound freighter to depart was the Federal Hudson… well inside the timeline.

Morin pointed out an estimated 48 ships remain at various ports in the Great Lakes and will be “wintering” there, an annual occurrence depending on schedules and servicing; other ships are wintering on the U.S. side of the lakes. Their names and locations are recorded in the annual Winter Lay-up List available online.

A close-to last-minute incident occurred Dec. 26 when bulk carrier the Algona Spirit, fully loaded with agricultural products, touched ground near Iroquois and was instructed to pull into the lock complex for inspection. Damage turned out to be minor and was quickly repaired, with the ship proceeding and clearing the system in plenty of time. No injuries, pollution or loss of cargo were reported.

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