MASSENA — Several guests reflected on the past and looked forward to the future as they spoke during the St. Lawrence Seaway’s 60th anniversary celebration this week at Eisenhower Lock.
The guests included U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao; U.S. Rep. Elise M. Stefanik, R-Schuylerville; Chief Edward Roundpoint from the Mohawk Council of Akwesasne; Terence Bowles, president and chief executive officer of the St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation; and William D. Friedman, chairman of the board of the American Association of Port Authorities and president and chief executive officer of the Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Port Authority.
Also speaking were John D. Baker; general organizer of the International Longshoremen’s Association; Allister Paterson, chair of the Chamber of Marine Commerce and chief commercial officer for the Canada Steamship Lines Group; and Marc-Yves Bertin, director general of marine policy for Transport Canada.
“We are honored to have so many friends and colleagues here from Massena, and from Canada and the United States,” said Craig Middlebrook, deputy administrator for the St. Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation, and master of ceremonies for the event.
“We are always looking forward, but we are proud today to take a moment and step back and acknowledge that for the last 60 years, the St. Lawrence Seaway has lived up to its promise as a vital connection between the heartland of North America and the rest of the world,” he said.
Secretary Chao, who had previously served as secretary of labor, acknowledged “the workers and employees at the St. Lawrence Seaway who work so hard every single day and night to make this facility operate as smoothly as it does.”
She noted that the Seaway system consists of six canals and 15 locks that handle ocean-going vessels traveling to and from markets worldwide.
“Ships from more than 50 different countries transit the Seaway every year, generating $35 million of economic activity and 238,000 jobs in Canada and the United States,” she said.
Secretary Chao said the 2018 shipping season was one of the best in more than a decade, and said a new trade agreement being negotiated between the United States, Canada and Mexico “is a much needed overhaul to the 25-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement. The U.S., Mexico and Canada agreement does more than any prior agreement to eliminate non-tariff barriers and unfair subsidies that work against America’s farmers, workers and employees.”
She said each ship transiting the Seaway carries as much cargo at 963 tractor-trailer trucks “and does so with seven times the fuel efficiency. This saves $3.6 billion every year and reduces highway congestion and pollution.”
Secretary Chao said the Seaway provides another environmental benefit.
“Canada and the United States have established coordinated ship inspections involving the Department of Transportation, Transport Canada, the United States Coast Guard and the Canadian Seaway. This is the most stringent water ballast management system in the world, and I’m really happy to report that the last 10 years, no new cases of invasive species have been introduced in ballast waters. This is a major accomplishment, and we want to keep it that way, don’t we?” she said.
Looking to the future, she said infrastructure needed to be addressed “because the infrastructure is so vital to our country’s productivity, competitiveness and also quality of life.”
“The St. Lawrence Seaway is a key component in the geography of North America and upstate New York,” Ms. Stefanik said.
She said the Seaway was ”one of the most significant engineering feats of the 20th century,” beginning with its official opening ceremony attended by Queen Elizabeth II and President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1959.
Ms. Stefanik said it was “the gateway to the heartland of America,” an economic engine for trade and commerce, and was an important part of communities like Massena.
“Our community depends on the St. Lawrence Seaway for countless jobs, millions of dollars and continual economic development for the region,” she said. “It is important not only to celebrate, but also reflect on the profound impact the St. Lawrence Seaway has had on the development of the north country in the last 60 years.”
“The Seaway is one of the world’s great engineering marvels,” Mr. Friedman said.
Like Massena, the economic impact of the Seaway was important in Cleveland.
“Our port is a vital part of our community,” he said as a ship passed through the Eisenhower Lock.
“We are incredibly fortunate to have this 2,300-mile marine highway that goes between our two countries and connects hundreds of cities around the world, into the cities in Canada and the United States. Having the ability to move cargo on water like this is the gold standard when you go to Europe. We’re sort of the envy of every landlocked country because as they try to fight congestion and pollution, the way they do it is by moving goods on the water. It really works. Let’s keep it going; let’s get another 60 years,” Mr. Paterson said.
The bi-national waterway was officially opened in 1959 by Queen Elizabeth II and President Eisenhower. It has been proclaimed as one of the 10 most outstanding engineering achievements of the past 100 years. Since its inception, nearly 3 billion tons of cargo, valued at over $450 billion, have been transported via the Seaway. Maritime commerce on the Great Lakes St. Lawrence Seaway System supports more than 237,000 U.S. and Canadian jobs and generates $35 billion in economic activity annually.
The Great Lakes Seaway System encompasses the St. Lawrence River and the five Great Lakes, and stretches more than 2,300 miles from the Gulf of St. Lawrence to Lake Superior.