Remarks As Prepared for Delivery by U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao For Saint Lawrence Seaway 60th Anniversary

August 24, 2019

Thank you, Craig [Middlebrook, Deputy Administrator SLSDC].  Congresswoman Stefanik, thank you for joining us on this wonderful occasion: the 60th anniversary of a great transportation infrastructure achievement – the St. Lawrence Seaway.

And let me recognize our other guests:  Chief [Edward] Roundpoint [Mohawk Council of Akwesasne], Mr. [Terence] Bowles [SLS Management Corp], Chairman [William] Friedman [Chairman American Association of Port Authorities and Pres/CEO of Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Port Authority], Mr. [John D.] Baker, [General Organizer International Longshoremen’s Association AFL-CIO], Mr. [Alister] Paterson [Chair of Chamber of Marine Commerce and Chief Commercial Officer Canada Steamship Lines Group], Director General Marc-Yves Bertin [Marine Policy at Canada Ministry of Transport] and Jim Emory [former St. Lawrence Seaway Administrator]. 

This engineering triumph has six canals, and 15 locks that handle ocean-going vessels.   It opens the Great Lakes region to the Atlantic Ocean, making it possible to ship to and from markets around the world. Ships from more than 50 different countries transit the Seaway each year, generating $35 billion of economic activity and 238,000 jobs in Canada and the United States.

Thanks to this Administration’s pro-growth economic policies, the 2018 shipping season was the best in over a decade.

More growth is possible.  A new trade agreement has been negotiated between the United States, Canada and Mexico.

This is a much-needed overhaul of the 25-year-old North American Free Trade agreement.  The United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) does more than any prior agreement to eliminate non-tariff barriers and unfair subsidies that work against America’s farmers, workers and employers.

Growth is also encouraged by the St. Lawrence Seaway.  Each ship transiting the Seaway carries as much cargo as 963 tractor trailer trucks and does so with seven times their fuel efficiency!  This saves $3.6 billion per year and reduces highway congestion and pollution.

The Seaway provides another environmental benefit.  Canada and the United States have established coordinated ship inspections involving the Department of Transportation, Transport Canada, the US Coast Guard, and the Canadian Seaway.

This is the most stringent ballast water management regime in the world.  I am very happy to report that in the past 10 years, no new cases of invasive species introduced through ballast water have been reported – the longest since those records have been kept.

St. Lawrence Seaway’s emphasis on safety, improving operations, and investing in infrastructure reinforces the U.S. Department of Transportation’s three priorities:

First is safety.

Second, addressing the deteriorating infrastructure in our nation, which is vital to our country’s productivity, economic vitality and quality of life.

Third, to prepare for the future by engaging with emerging technologies, to address legitimate public concerns about safety, privacy, and security, while not hampering innovation.

Innovation is part of the Seaway’s Asset Renewal Program.  Over the past 10 years, this program has invested $152 million in 50 different projects.

One example, as mention, is the Hands-Free Mooring system.  Gripping machines speed up the slow and sometimes dangerous old mooring process. It has been installed on 13 of the 15 Seaway locks, and saves from 3 to 4 hours per Seaway transit.

It was the first inland waterway system to adopt the Automatic Identification System and integrate it with a Traffic Management System.  This GPS-enabled system has entered worldwide use.

And another innovation is the Draft Information System, which was adopted in 2012.  This provides real-time information on how much water is beneath a moving ship.  This allows safer operations in areas with limited depth.

Another innovation is an ice-breaking tugboat being built in Louisiana.

You will be pleased to know that the Department is also innovating in how it provides assistance to local communities.

Under this Administration’s guidance, the Department is ensuring that rural areas, which were historically neglected, now get proper consideration.

This Administration is also encouraging opportunity zones, which can benefit rural communities such as Massena.  These zones provide employers incentives to invest and create jobs.

The Seaways has set an example.  In the past ten years, local contractors have received about half of its Asset Renewal Project grants.

The Saint Lawrence Seaway is a national treasure, and we need to get that word out.  So, on the its 60th Anniversary, Congresswoman Elise Stefanik and I have a special birthday present.

Today I am announcing my approval of $6 million for construction of a new visitors’ center for the tens of thousands of people from around the world who come to watch ships transit this impressive lock each year.  This new center will serve as a cornerstone for tourism in the North Country region of New York.

We will continue to work with local partners to run the facility, hopefully taking advantage of Opportunity Zone benefits I already mentioned.

I want to thank Congresswoman Elise Stefanik again for her hard work advocating for this tourism center and being a tireless champion for economic development in this region.

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Washington, D. C. 20013
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