Great Lakes ports connect land-based and waterborne transportation and are crucial to local economies and regional industries. There are more than 100 ports in the Great Lakes St. Lawrence River Transportation System (MTS), handling an estimated 200 million tonnes of cargo annually. Continuous investments are necessary to support the maintenance of essential port functions and to expand port capacity to further integrate the maritime system into regional transportation networks.
In order to achieve the goal of increasing the Maritime Transportation System’s (MTS) maritime trade and traffic, new shippers and cruise lines must be convinced to use the MTS. Marketing efforts can play an important role in educating prospective system users about the advantages and benefits of MTS maritime shipping. In theory, if potential users are familiar with the system and its value proposition is easily understood, they will be more likely to use it.
There are a variety of potential barriers to increasing trade and traffic on the Maritime Transportation (MTS), and some of these barriers can be influenced by policymakers. Such policy-relevant barriers to increasing trade and traffic include the seasonal closures of the system, complex customs regulations, and a fragmented regulatory framework.
The binational navigation infrastructure underpinning the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Maritime Transportation System (MTS) is critical to the system’s viability and global competitiveness. Moving hundreds of millions of goods and materials annually through the world’s largest deep-draft inland navigation system requires ongoing investment in physical structures, such as locks, piers and breakwaters; waterway maintenance, especially dredging; and services, such as pilotage, icebreaking and aids to navigation.
Shipping in the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Maritime Transportation System (MTS) is a more energy efficient transportation mode than road or rail transportation, thanks to the large capacity of vessels and the relatively low friction associated with moving a vessel through water. As a result, marine shipping emits the lowest amount of carbon per ton-mile, relative to road or rail transportation.
MTS stakeholders in Canada and the United States have developed new policies, partnerships, and technologies to prevent the introduction of new non-native species, or the spread of existing non-native species. Oceangoing ships entering the Maritime Transportation System (MTS) from foreign ports have the potential to introduce non-native species through transfer of ballast water, which is used to help stabilize unloaded or partially-loaded vessels.
Environmental certification programs support the regional maritime transportation system’s efforts to demonstrate progress towards improving the environmental performance of the maritime transportation system. Through certification programs, such as Green Marine, companies voluntarily commit to a process that tracks their environmental performance through a rigorous process that insures transparency.
The U.S. and Canadian federal governments, vessel operators, academic partners and others are collaborating in a number of areas to address environmental challenges associated with maritime transportation in the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River. This includes investments, research, management practices, and new regulations in the following areas (see investments for additional background):