WELLAND CANAL OPENS FOR BUSINESS TODAY
(St. Catharines, Ont.) March 23, 2004 - Captain Brett Walker of the Algoma Central Corporation vessel Captain Henry Jackman was presented with the ceremonial top hat at Lock 3 this morning, when the Welland Canal officially opened for its 175th consecutive year of service.
Dick Corfe, President and CEO of The St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation, declared the Welland Canal officially open. He also unveiled the first billboard in a striking educational campaign to promote the many benefits to be derived from the increased use of the marine mode - reduced congestion, reduced air pollution and reduced highway maintenance costs. Starting this week, anyone who travels the Toronto - Windsor corridor by road will start to see these billboards along the 400-series of highways.
He also announced a new operating draft of 26'6", (an increase of three inches over last year) for all inland vessels and for ocean vessels equipped with bow thrusters. This will allow full size seaway vessels to carry an additional 300 T on each voyage, improving the efficiency and productivity of both the system and vessel fleets.
At the ceremony, Mr. Corfe was joined by his U.S. counterpart Albert Jacquez, Ernie Parsons, Parliamentary Assistant to the Ontario Minister of Transportation and MPP for Prince Edward-Hastings, Bruce Timms representing Regional Chair Peter Partington, Tim Rigby, Mayor of St. Catharines, and other elected officials. The local shipping industry, represented by Algoma Central Corporation President Tim Dool, owners of the first vessel to pass through the locks this year, was also in attendance.
The ceremony also marked the beginning of the countdown to the 50th anniversary of the Seaway. Fifty years ago this summer, construction began on the St. Lawrence Seaway, the first step in opening the way for ocean vessels into the heart of North America.
Since then, more than two billion tonnes of cargo have gone through Seaway locks. Traffic on the Welland Canal decreased slightly last year. Traffic in 2003 totalled 31.85 million tonnes, down from 32.1 million tonnes in 2002.
"2004 holds promise, not only to be busy," says Corfe, "but highly productive, in our collective endeavour to raise the profile of marine transportation. We will be in the thick of things, looking for new ways to use the system, new cargoes and new partnerships, while reinforcing the ones we have.
"In the Welland Canal, we completed a $13 million winter maintenance program on time and on budget, including the electrical rehabilitation of Bridge 21. We also began a 6 year $40 million program to convert our mechanical lock equipment to hydraulic drives. As well as being more efficient, the new equipment will reduce maintenance costs and will operate effectively in adverse weather, giving us the potential to extend our season."