Seaway Opening Ceremony

By Shelley Byrne  |  Ports & Terminals
The 64th navigation season of the St. Lawrence Seaway officially launched with an opening ceremony on March 24. Canada Steamship Lines’ Welland, a Trillium Class bulk carrier, was the first ship to pass through the Eisenhower Lock in Massena, New York, on March 22, marking the opening of the Montreal-Lake Ontario Section of the St. Lawrence Seaway.

The ship was painted with a mural depicting four stylized runners, celebrating the upcoming Canada Summer Games. The mural was unveiled as part of the ceremony in St. Catherines, Ontario.

The ceremony was the first in-person ceremony held in two years.

“It was a pretty exciting time,” Bowles said.

Each year the ceremony alternates between St. Catherines and the St. Lambert Lock in Montreal.

The St. Catherines events always include a traditional top-hat ceremony as beaver pelts, which were made into top hats, were some of the first items traded along the waterways that eventually became the seaway. The captain of the first vessel to traverse the Welland Canal gets to wear and doff a ceremonial top hat kept in a museum the rest of the year.

Canadian Transport Minister Omar Alghabra (who attended virtually), Middlebrook, and Bowles welcomed the transit of the first commercial vessel of the season.

“The seaway system, and the people operating it, have kept goods moving efficiently and reliably to and from America’s heartland when we needed them most,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said in a statement prepared for the ceremony. “We’re proud to open this year’s navigation season for the seaway system, and, with our Canadian partners, support this critical part of our economy and supply chain.”

More than 237,000 jobs and $35 billion in economic activity in the United States and Canada are annually supported by movement of various cargoes on the seaway system. More than 35 million metric tons of cargo move along it each year, the U.S. Department of Transportation said in a news release.

A ship transiting the seaway system’s 15 locks from Montreal to Lake Erie crosses the international border 27 times, and the U.S. Department of Transportation and Transport Canada work closely together to ensure that journeys are as safe and seamless as possible. 

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