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Not so smooth sailing on the St. Lawrence Seaway

In 1535, Jacques Cartier stood on Mount Royal looking down in despair at the Lachine Rapids that barred his further progress inland along the St. Lawrence River. It wasn't until 1954 that a formal agreement between Canada and the U.S. finally made the St. Lawrence Seaway possible. Heralded as a marvel of engineering when it opened in 1959, the Seaway has been hit by environmental problems and hard economic times over the last two decades. What lies ahead for the Seaway?

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The Seaway is hit by hard times, as Great Lakes-shipping is experiencing one of its worst seasons in a long time. Deckhands, cooks and electricians crowd into a port office in Thorold, Ont. during the summer, hoping a ship will come into dock in the Welland Canal and offer them work. But as this CBC Television clip shows, jobs are few and far between, and things won't get better any time soon.

"I haven't worked since last October," said one man. "I've been coming down here every day since the middle of March trying to get a job." The problem? There's not much grain to transport. Hot dry weather has turned Prairie grain to dust, and Canadian silos are already full to rim with grain, thus setting off a chain reaction. With no product to move, freighters simply drop anchor and sit idle in the middle of the Seaway, leaving these frustrated sailors without work.
• This rough season was part of a larger trend as shipping along the Great Lakes slowly decreased and as the years passed on, the Seaway slipped further and further into economic crisis.

• The St. Lawrence Seaway suffered one of its worst shipping seasons in 2001, as the volume of cargo was down 11.4 per cent. Seaway president Guy Veronneau cited a slump in the steel industry, a poor grain harvest in the Prairies and low water levels on the Great Lakes for the poor season.

• A year before this piece aired, the Seaway celebrated its 25th anniversary. The occasion was marked by a special 'Seaway Day' celebration on June 27. At the ceremony, U.S. President Ronald Reagan officially declared 1984 'The Year of the Seaway'.
Medium: Television
Program: The National
Broadcast Date: Aug. 9, 1985
Guest(s): Keith Edmunds, Roman Gralewicz, Paul Martin, Kenneth Staples
Host: Knowlton Nash
Reporter: Anna Maria Tremonti
Duration: 2:41

Last updated: November 10, 2014

Page consulted on November 10, 2014

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