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Economic IMPACT

Photo: Rebeca Barclay


By Jim Weakley, President, Lake Carriers’ Association

n July 18, the Great Lakes Seaway Par tnership, of which Lake Carriers’ Association (LCA) is a founding member, released a new study on the economic impacts of waterborne commerce on those waters. The results are impressive. Lakes/Seaway shipping generates nearly 238,000 jobs in our two nations and $35 billion in economic activity. Specific to U.S.-flag carriers, the cargos we move generate nearly 116,000 jobs and $8.3 billion in personal income in the eight Great Lakes states. That’s quite remarkable given that the U.S.-flag fleet of large freighthauling vessels on the Great Lakes numbers only about 60 hulls. These updated statistics will be invaluable as LCA pursues its longterm goals: a second Poe-sized lock at Sault Ste. Marie, MI; another heavy icebreaker; a uniform, Federal ballast water discharge standard; and continued adequate funding for dredging ports and waterways. The second Poe-sized lock took a giant step toward reality when on June 29 the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers released its New Soo Lock Economic Validation Study

that determined twinning the Poe Lock has a benefit/cost ratio (BCR) of 2.42, well above the level required for inclusion in an Administration budget. And there’s good reason to believe this Administration will do that. President Trump has publicly declared he supports the project. The new study, referenced in the first paragraph, looked specifically at the benefits of the Soo Locks and found that more than 87,000 jobs in the eight Great Lakes states depend on cargo transiting the Soo Locks. A second Poe-sized lock will probably cost close to $1 billion, but as James C. Dalton, Chief of Civil Works for the Corps acknowledged, “The strategic importance of the Soo Locks cannot be overstated.” With an unquestionably positive BCR in place, LCA will now focus its efforts on funding construction. Three of the past five winters on the Lakes have clearly demonstrated that the U.S. and Canadian Coast Guards do not have enough icebreakers to meet the needs of commerce in anything other than a mild ice season. One can’t question the skills or commitment of the crews on those icebreakers, but many

of the vessels are in need of modernization or outright replacement. At one point this past winter, five of the U.S. Coast Guard’s nine icebreaking assets were out of service at the same time. LCA members paid a very high price. More than 5 million tons of iron ore, coal and other cargos were either delayed or outright cancelled because of ice-related conditions between December 2017 and April 2018. The good news is another heavy icebreaker for the Lakes has been authorized and $5 million has been appropriated for design of the vessel. We expect the icebreaker to be largely a copy of the existing USCGC Mackinaw, but with refinements that can then be incorporated when that vessel undergoes its modernization. Our efforts to pass legislation establishing a uniform, Federal standard for ballast water discharges have twice come close to fruition, but each time the Vessel Incidental Discharge Act language was removed from legislation at the last minute. We continue to work with legislators from both parties and other interests to enact legislation that September 2018 // Marine Log 15

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Marine Log September 2018  

Marine Log September 2018  

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