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St. Lawrence Seaway opens amidst uncertain times

St. Catharines, Ontario – The St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation (SLSMC) marked the opening of the Seaway’s 62nd navigation season today, with the transit through Lock 8 on the Welland Canal of the NACC Argonaut, a pneumatic cement carrier that is 50% owned by Algoma Central Corporation. The outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic in recent months is expected to have an impact on cargo volumes on the bi-national waterway which handled 38.4 million tonnes in 2019 versus 41 million tonnes in 2018.

The Seaway’s Montreal / Lake Ontario section will open on April 1st , eight days after the opening of the Welland Canal. This hybrid approach will enable the International Joint Commission to move record volumes of water out of Lake Ontario in order to provide relief to lakeshore communities battered by high water levels.

“With the COVID-19 outbreak, we are living in exceptional times. We witnessed a tremendous response by our employees and members of the broader marine community in overcoming a range of obstacles to ensure that the Seaway can open” said Terence Bowles, President and CEO of the SLSMC.

“The St. Lawrence Seaway provides an essential transportation service that literally feeds nations around the world, including Canada and the U.S., and supplies the inputs which keep many of our industries operating,” Mr. Bowles stressed. “We will strive to do our part during this difficult period. We are implementing recommended preventive measures to protect the health of our employees, including working from home where possible. “

Craig H. Middlebrook, Deputy Administrator of the U.S. Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation said, “Every navigation season brings opportunities and challenges and the 2020 season will be no different.  While the opportunities and challenges change each year, what remains constant are the safety, reliability, efficiency and environmental performance advantages of waterborne transportation.”

In a statement, Algoma indicated that the most pressing present concern was the safety of crew members. The company is working together with all stakeholders and taking proactive steps to mitigate the risk of COVID-19 for all employees.

“The health and safety of our employees and families is and always has been our number one priority,” declared Gregg Ruhl, President and CEO of the largest operator of dry and liquid bulk carriers on the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence waterway.

“Although times are uncertain,” he added, “we understand that we have a critical role to play in the Canadian and global economy. We are committed and will do everything we can to keep essential supply chains open and the wheels of industry turning, while also doing our part to flatten the curve.”
Algoma stated that it had approached the 2020 shipping season with a healthy customer base and a solid book of business – and with plans to deploy all its vessels in support of agriculture, construction, mining and manufacturing. The carrier is fitting out vessels for domestic service as warranted by demand – and, as a result, some vessels will enter service later than previously scheduled.

The NACC Argonaut currently trades on the Great Lakes and east coast of Canada, primarily for Lafarge Cement Canada, loading regularly at Lafarge’s cement production facility at Bath, Ontario and delivering to destinations in both Canada and the United States. NovaAlgoma Cement Carriers (NACC) is a joint venture between Algoma Central Corporation and Nova Marine Holding SA of Luxembourg. (photo SLSMC)

A sign of the times, the Canadian icebreaker CCGS Pierre Radisson en route to its base in the City of Québec, crosses CSL’s Whitefish Bay under the Québec Bridge, en route to Montréal. Photo: Pierre Terrien 24/03/20