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(St. Lambert, Québec, March 21, 2007) – The Montreal/Lake Ontario (MLO) section of the St. Lawrence Seaway opened for its 49th shipping season today with the transit of the Atlantic Erie through the St. Lambert Lock. Today’s opening marks the earliest starting date on record for the MLO, which opened last year on March 23rd. The Seaway’s Welland Canal section opened yesterday.

The Seaway recorded strong traffic results in 2006, with tonnage increasing 9% to 47.2 million tonnes as new cargo movements reflected the growing importance of shortsea shipping in complementing the road and rail intermodal network.

Technological improvements continue at a steady pace, pointing to a system that is continually building on its strengths while approaching its 50th anniversary in 2009. This year, advancements include the testing of a hands-free vessel mooring system at Lock 8 of the Welland Canal, a vessel self-spotting system at the Côte Ste. Catherine Lock to enable crew members to judge precisely their approach into a lock, and a sophisticated 3D charting system which provides an accurate model of the channel bottom, with the potential to enhance navigation and available vessel draft.

Guy Yelle, Regional Director of the Seaway’s Maisonneuve Region, is quick to highlight the system’s exceptional reliability. “Over the course of the 2006 navigation season, our system had a 99.6% availability record”, noted Mr. Yelle. “This level of reliability validates the proactive maintenance program that we conduct every year, the dedication of our employees, and the use of new technology that allows us to operate in virtually all weather conditions during our navigation season.”

Within the Seaway’s existing locks and channels, the capacity exists to increase cargo volume by over 60%. This opportunity is very significant, in light of clogged land-based arteries. With growing recognition of the marine mode as the most fuel-efficient means of transporting cargo per tonne-kilometre, while generating the lowest total volume of greenhouse gas emissions, interest in Hwy H2O is steadily building as corporations strive to build a reliable and sustainable supply chain.