Canadian Consulting Engineer

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Plans afoot to make Great Lakes waterways fit for Panamax vessels.

The Toronto Star newspaper reports that plans are afoot to widen and deepen the Great Lakes navigable waterways in...


The Toronto Star newspaper reports that plans are afoot to widen and deepen the Great Lakes navigable waterways in order to acommodate giant Panamax ocean tankers.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has prepared a report on the proposals which, if approved, will be presented to the U.S. Congress. Canadian organizations such as the St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corp. that runs the locks on the Quebec waterway are said to be backing the proposals, and lobbying Transport Canada to contribute $10 million to a further five-year intensive study.
If the plans are approved — even for study — it would mean “years of intensive engineering and economic and environmental study,” according to sources in the Toronto newspaper.
Panamax vessels are the size of almost three football fields. To get them through the St. Lawrence Seaway, the Welland Canal and the St. Clair River would mean deepening the channels by three metres, and stretching the locks by about 9 metres in width and 120 metres in length. Environmentalists oppose the idea of deepening the waterways because they say the dredging will disturb wildlife habitats and pose an increased threat of oil spills.
However, deeper channels would open up great possibilities for the shipping business in the Great Lakes. The increase in tonnage is predicted to rise from 232 million to 357 million tonnnes in 2060, doubling the activity and benefiting ports like Toronto, Chicago and Detroit.
The St. Lawrence Seaway is closed for three months of the year presently. Also, since the Welland Canal and St. Lawrence Seaway were completed in 1932 and 1959 respectively, vessels have almost doubled in size, and only about 10% of ships in the world can pass through them.