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Opening of the Great Lakes to international shipping is delayed by 2 weeks

HIGH water on the Great Lakes is pushing back the start of the international shipping season by two weeks, potentially costing companies millions in lost revenue and disrupting supply chains

10 March 2020 - 19:00

HIGH water on the Great Lakes is pushing back the start of the international shipping season by two weeks, potentially costing companies millions in lost revenue and disrupting supply chains.

The locks that permit travel between Lake Ontario and the St Lawrence River will not open until April 1, two weeks later than expected. The Ottawa-based Chamber of Marine Commerce said that could delay up to 100 ships, reported Minneapolis Star Tribune.



The port of Duluth-Superior relies first on the Soo Locks - which is still scheduled to open on time on March 25 for domestic shipments - to get shipments in and out of Lake Superior, but officials say a lack of reliability in the system can hurt long-term prospects.



'Delayed shipments and uncertain system availability will result in lost business that may not return,' Duluth Seaway Port Authority executive director Deb DeLuca said in a statement. 'Shippers would seek alternative supply routes and supply chains, potentially resulting in permanent traffic loss for US and Canadian ports.'



Last year the port had 85 overseas vessel visits, the most since 2010. The first international visits, when on schedule, don't arrive until early or mid-April.



Mr DeLuca added that high water levels are 'concerning for all involved, from perspectives of navigability, property damage and economic and community resiliency.'



Several lakes are currently at record-high water levels, and others remain well above average, causing problems for coastal communities and the shipping industry.



The Welland Canal, which connects Lake Ontario and Lake Erie, is scheduled to open March 24. By then, the Army Corps of Engineers expects water levels to rise at least an inch on all the lakes except Superior, which should fall by an inch.



Lakes Michigan, Huron and Erie were all five inches above recorded monthly highs as of February 21.


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