St. Lawrence Seaway marks 60 years of business

St. Lawrence Seaway celebrates 60 years of operations
WATCH: The St. Lawrence Seaway is marking 60 years of being a vast maritime highway. As Global's Tim Sargeant reports, it's a milestone that is cause for celebration.

It’s a milestone worth billions of dollars.

The St. Lawrence Seaway is celebrating 60 years of existence as the maritime highway into North America.

The cargo vessel, Federal Kumano, owned by Montreal-based Fednav, was the first ship of 2019 to navigate through the St. Lawrence Seaway. It docked Tuesday at the Saint Lambert locks using hands-free mooring, a new technology that uses suction cups instead of cables.

READ MORE: Heavy ice causes delay in season opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway

“It’s important to show the people of Canada, I guess, the importance of that seaway and what it’s doing for them,” Terence Bowles, CEO of the St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation told Global News.

Bowles says the seaway is like a bell-weather of the economy because of the billions of dollars worth of bulk goods that come through.

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Last year, 41-million tons of cargo passed through — an increase of 16 per cent in the last two years and the best year in a decade.

“It’s a worldwide business. We ship to something like 50 some countries at the present time,” Bowles said.

WATCH BELOW: St. Lawrence Seaway hits milestone

St. Lawrence Seaway hits milestone
St. Lawrence Seaway hits milestone

Fednav is one of the seaway’s largest clients. The shipping company is celebrating 75 years of business and a lot of the company’s success has depended on innovative measures by the seaway in the last 60 years.

“We are the largest international user of the seaway and it’s a big part of what we do globally,” Paul Pathy, Fednav CEO told Global News.

The seaway opened in 1959 in front of thousands of people. Queen Elizabeth and then U.S. president Dwight D. Eisenhower attended the opening ceremonies. This maritime highway was considered critical to gaining access to the North American market.

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It continues to play a vital role for the economies of Canada and the U.S.

“I can’t think of a single more important push for the economy that we’ve had in the last 60 years than the opening of the seaway,” Joel Szabat, assistant secretary in the U.S. Department of Transportation, told Global News.

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Cargo ships passing through the seaway carry goods from soybeans to iron ore and petroleum products. Usually, they’re bulk items that cannot be carried in containers by rail.

“Most things that come into this country or go out of this country go by ship,” Marc Garneau, the federal Transport Minister, told Global News.

As for the future, officials hope to introduce intelligent locks that will make the seaway even more efficient in the years ahead.