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Cargo shipments to ports on the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River waterway generate CDN$60 billion worth of economic activity and 328,500 jobs in Canada and the U.S., according to a new study released today. That breaks down to 181,000 jobs and CDN$26 billion in economic activity in Ontario and Quebec.

The Economic Impacts of Maritime Shipping in the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Region reveals the economic benefits of the shipping activity along the entire bi-national Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River waterway – the longest deep draft inland navigation system in the world. In 2017, more than 230 million metric tons of raw materials and finished goods were transported by ships to and from ports via the waterway, which includes the Great Lakes, the St. Lawrence Seaway and the lower St. Lawrence river.  This international and domestic cargo was worth over CDN$100 billion.

The Honourable Marc Garneau, Minister of Transport:“The Great Lakes, St. Lawrence Seaway, and St. Lawrence River play a pivotal role in Canada’s supply chain, and contribute to our regional and national economies. The Trade and Transportation Corridors Initiative supports such major trade corridors, and allows Canadians to compete in key global markets and trade more efficiently with international partners.”

Bruce Burrows, President of the Chamber of Marine Commerce:“Great Lakes-St. Lawrence shipping is a key driver of the Canadian economy, supporting more than 181,000 jobs and carrying raw materials and finished products on behalf of businesses across the country. This study demonstrates the value of investing in port and lock infrastructure along this key bi-national trade and transportation corridor that connects cities within North America and is a gateway to international markets. The 2017 shipping season saw significant cargo increases fueled by global economic recovery and new business wins. We have great potential to build on this momentum to deliver further economic growth for Canada.”

Terence Bowles, President and CEO of The St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation:”The results of this study demonstrate once again that the Great Lakes/Seaway System is a vital waterway, serving as a key part of the North American logistics chain and as an important gateway for trade with over 50 nations across the globe. Moving cargo over water supports an immense number of jobs, eases congestion on our road and rail links, and provides the most energy efficient means of getting tonnage to its destination. Stakeholders win on all counts!”

The study shows that marine shipping on the waterway is used by many industry sectors of the economy including agriculture, manufacturing, mining, energy and construction among others.

Sean Donnelly, President and CEO, ArcelorMittal Dofasco:“ArcelorMittal Dofasco is Canada’s largest flat rolled steel producer.  Great Lakes-St. Lawrence shipping provides a critical business advantage for ArcelorMittal and has been an integral part of our operations from the beginning – 106 years ago.  More than 185 ships deliver 5.2 million metric tons of iron ore and coal to our Hamilton docks every year for steel production, as well as other materials such as steel slabs and coke.  It provides a direct, cost-effective and sustainable way to transport these huge volumes of raw materials.  Our success is dependent on the success of our supply chain, including the St. Lawrence Seaway and the ship operators that move our material.”

Carsten Bredin, Vice-President, Grain Merchandising, Richardson International Limited: “The Great Lakes-St. Lawrence waterway is a key export corridor for Western Prairie and Ontario soybeans, corn and wheat.  Richardson International ships a significant portion of its grain business through our terminals in Thunder Bay, Hamilton and Sorel to markets in the U.S., Mexico, South America, Middle East and Asia.  Our ability to use marine shipping allows us to get goods to market quicker and most cost effectively.”

Phil Guglielmi, General Manager, Redpath Sugar:“Redpath Sugar Ltd, which now stands alone on the Toronto waterfront was first constructed in 1959 to coincide with the opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway.  Its location in Toronto was specifically chosen to service the Ontario food and beverage processing sector, a sector which generates $41 billion in revenue, exports $7.6 billion in product and provides over 130,00 direct jobs.  Redpath as a major low-cost ingredient supplier will continue to be dependent on the St. Lawrence Seaway to provide a safe, environmentally efficient and economical mode of transport for raw sugar from as far away as Central America and Brazil.  Each vessel of 20,000 metric tons of raw sugar represents 500 to 600 truckloads travelling over 500 kilometers of strained highways and congested downtown Toronto streets.”

Key findings of the study:

  • Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River shipping supports 181,000 direct, indirect and induced jobs and $26 billion in economic activity in Canada. More than 60 percent of those jobs and impacts are in Quebec, with the balance in Ontario.
  • The maritime industry not only supports jobs directly on the waterfront – longshoremen, terminal employees, vessel operators, pilots, and truckers – but nearly 50 per cent of direct jobs impacts are with steelworkers, miners, and other industries that are dependent on the cargo and would likely disappear without the navigation system. The location of steel mills, alumina smelters and dependent iron ore, salt and alumina mines in proximity to ports and marine terminals underscores the importance of the transportation system in providing raw materials to the region’s industrial economy.
  • Marine-related industries and employees contribute significantly to the health, education and general prosperity of Canadian society through their $5.7 billion contribution to federal and provincial/local taxes.
  • The top five cargoes transported on the bi-national system by volume are iron ore (for steel production), petroleum products (for fuel, home heating and business uses) stone/aggregates (for construction), coal (for steel production and more limited power generation) and grain (for domestic food production and world export).
  • Containers shipped to Quebec ports accounted for 60 per cent of the total value of all cargo transported on the bi-national waterway. 13.8 million metric tons of containers were valued at over $60 billion.

To read the executive summary

To view the infographic story