The Great Lakes shipping season officially kicks off Monday with the opening of the Welland Canal, the shipping channel that connects Lake Ontario and Lake Erie.
This is the earliest the Canal has opened – matching the March 20th opening in 2007. But since the winter has been so mild, shipping locally has continued throughout the region.
The Interlake Steamship Company’s Brendan O’Connor says the weather has also aided ship repairs that typically happen during the winter hiatus. “The efficiency of being able to work in more mild temperatures certainly increases the productivity and the speed at which a job gets completed.”
Great Lakes ice cover reached its peak March 13th , with almost 20 percent ice cover in the basin .
O’Connor says the 2017 season is already showing promise. “We’ve seen some growth in the volumes that we’ve been asked to carry for the industrial customers that we work for."
The Soo Locks – which make it possible to go from Lake Superior to the Atlantic Ocean – open officially on Saturday. The St. Lawrence Seaway, which maintains the Welland Canal, has invested $90 million in infrastructure modernization, including increased bank protection and upgrades to several locks.
Note: A previous version misstated the opening date of the Soo Locks and the agency that manages it.