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 Regional Maritime Strategy notes that the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway portion of the MTS has historically been a more seasonal system, and navigability of the Soo Locks and the St. Lawrence Seaway is closed during three months of the winter. Because of the seasonal shutdown of these key locks, some shippers must use alternative modes of transportation, or stockpile inventories during the winter. Both options increase the overall cost of shipping via the MTS, and this overall additional cost makes seasonality a potential barrier to increasing trade and traffic. Potential policy reforms related to MTS seasonality are discussed here


The Regional Maritime Strategy identified complexity in customs policies as a barrier to the movement of maritime cargo, particularly in short-sea shipping applications. Additionally, current customs regulations add cost, complexity, and delays to cruise operations. As a result, the Regional Maritime Strategy recommended that the US and Canada identify opportunities to simplify and expedite the cross-border movement of maritime cargo and clearance of cruise passengers. Efforts to improve U.S. customs clearance for cruise passengers are discussed here

The MTS is made up of two nations, two provinces, and eight states, and operations and management of the system is divided among a complex patchwork of agencies. The Maritime Transportation Strategy notes that this large number of agencies, each with their own priorities, has made system-wide cooperation and collaboration difficult. One example of fragmented management was state-by-state differences in US in ballast water treatment or discharge standards. The different standards proposed or implemented by individual states will be resolved by the Vessel Incidental Discharge Act.


Marine pilots are required by law for all ocean-going vessels operating in the MTS. Regulators of pilotage in the Canadian waters of the system include the Laurentian Pilotage Authority in Montreal for the Gulf of St. Lawrence and the St. Lawrence River, and the Great Lakes Pilotage Authority, Ltd. In Cornwall, Ontario for the St. Lawrence Seaway and Canadian waters in the Great Lakes. Regulation of pilots in the U.S. waters of the Great Lakes is under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Coast Guard’s Office of Great Lakes Pilotage in Washington. As pilotage represents a significant operational consideration for MTS users, its regulation, management and service delivery are of keen interest to the commercial maritime industry in both Canada and the United States. For its part, the Regional Maritime Strategy acknowledges the need for a new look at the pilotage delivery service structure and calls for a more open, collaborative process involving relevant governmental agencies and industry from both side of the border. Actions to address pilotage are discussed here.