The St. Lawrence Seaway is one of the most important domestic and international transportation systems in the world, providing access to nearly one-third of the combined populations of Canada and the United States.

CoastguardThe Great Lakes St. Lawrence Seaway System is a deep draft waterway extending 3,700 km (2,340 miles) from the Atlantic Ocean to the head of the Great Lakes, in the heart of North America. The St. Lawrence Seaway portion of the System extends from Montreal to mid-Lake Erie. Ranked as one of the outstanding engineering feats of the twentieth century, the St. Lawrence Seaway includes 13 Canadian and two United States locks, according to the St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation.

The Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River have been major North American trade arteries since long before the United States or Canada achieved nationhood. Almost every commodity imaginable moves on the Great Lakes Seaway System. Annual commerce on the System exceeds 200 million net tons (180 million metric tons), and there is still ample room for growth. Some commodities are dominant:

  • Iron ore for the steel industry
  • Coal for power generation and steel production
  • Limestone for construction and steel industries
  • Grain for overseas markets
  • General cargo, such as iron and steel products and heavy machinery
  • Cement, salt and stone aggregates for agriculture and industry

The primary carrier vessels fall into three main groups: the resident Great Lakes bulk carriers or "lakers"; ocean ships or "salties"; and tug-propelled barges. U.S. and Canadian lakers move cargo among Great Lakes ports, with both nations' laws reserving domestic commerce to their own flag carriers. Salties flying the flags of other nations connect the Lakes with all parts of the world.

Opened to navigation in 1959, the St. Lawrence Seaway part of the system has moved more than 2.5 billion metric tons of cargo in 50 years, with an estimated value of more than $375 billion. Almost 25 percent of this cargo travels to and from overseas ports, especially Europe, South America, the Middle East, and Africa.

From Great Lakes / Seaway ports, a multi-modal transportation network fans out across the continent. More than 40 provincial and interstate highways and nearly 30 rail lines link the 15 major ports of the system and 50 regional ports with consumers, products and industries all over North America.

Visit www.portofjohnstown.com and www.greatlakes-seaway.com to learn more.