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St. Catharines, Ontario (March 20, 2008) - Tying a record established in 2007 for the earliest opening date, the Welland Canal ushered in the 77th navigation season since the inception of the present Welland Canal in 1932 with the passage of the M.V. Canadian Progress.

The Welland Canal continues to play a vital role within the Canadian and U.S. economies.  The bi-national Great Lakes St. Lawrence Seaway Study, completed in 2007, highlights the key attributes of the Seaway that will continue to pay dividends for years to come.  Providing a cost effective and sustainable means of transporting goods, the system complements existing intermodal networks.

To capitalize on this potential, The St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation has initiated a number of strategies to maximize the use of the existing locks and channels.  These strategies include a revised tariff of tolls, which will remain frozen until at least 2011, coupled with various incentives and volume discounts designed to attract new business to the system.

Within the Welland Canal, work continues to renew assets that have been in service since 1932.  A hydraulic conversion program is almost complete, with the retrofit of Locks 2 and 3 to hydraulic drive this past winter.  With the planned conversion of Locks 1 and 8 during the winter of 2008 / 2009, all of the Welland Canal’s locks will benefit from this technology, which promises to lower long term maintenance costs.

Lock 7 is the focus of efforts to dramatically revise the means by which ships transit the canal.  A ‘vacuum mooring’ prototype will be installed this year to further advance development of a technology that successfully completed operating trials at Lock 8 last year.  Complemented by laser range finding equipment to enable a master to accurately gauge the vessel’s approach into the lock, the hands-free mooring system has the potential to streamline much of the manual labour currently required during a lock transit.

Work by Rankin Renewable Power Inc. to develop three “green” hydropower projects at the weirs adjacent to Locks 1, 2 and 3 is advancing steadily.  The powerhouses at weirs 1 and 2 are on schedule and are expected to be in-service by late September 2008.  The construction of the generating station at weir 3 is slated to start during the winter of 2009 and to be in-service by September 2009.

Since its inception in 1959, over 2.3 billion tonnes valued in excess of $350 billion has been transported via the Seaway. For more information concerning the Seaway, and insight into its future, please visit