Short Sea Shipping

Domestic fleets doing coastal or inland trade are often referred to as being involved in short sea shipping. Although short sea shipping definition varies by countries, this specific activity is usually understood as the movement of cargo by sea without directly crossing an ocean. It is also referred in North-America as “marine highways”.

Great Lakes and St Lawrence waterway navigation is typically short sea shipping, as goods are moved by Lakers, most of the time as far as Montreal, where cargo for oversea is loaded on foreign-flag ocean-going vessels.

Great Lakes and St Lawrence Seaway

In the Great Lakes and St Lawrence waterway, most of the traffic is carried by either Canadian or U.S. flag vessels. Intra-lakes traffic is the domain of the domestic Canadian and U.S. lakes fleets. Traffic between two points in the United States is reserved for U.S. flag vessels while traffic between two points in Canada is reserved for Canadian flag vessels unless an exemption is obtained pursuant to the Coasting Trade Act.

The Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence River have been marine highways for centuries. From the 1840s on, lock systems bypassed the natural barriers of the Niagara Escarpment and the St. Lawrence rapids, and encouraged the marine movement of freight and passengers. One major carrier was Canada Steamship Lines, which operated its package freighter service from 1904 to 1982 and carried everything from vehicles to canned goods. Canada Steamship Lines remains a key player, operating a large proportion of Canada's self-unloader fleet involved in short sea trades on the Great Lakes. Without the Canadian Great Lakes fleet and the Seaway, it would not be economically possible to deliver iron ore from Quebec/Labrador to Canadian and U.S. steel mills along the Lakes.

Economic Benefits of Short Sea Shipping

In 2011, “The Economic Impacts of the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway System” study has showed that in 2010, 322.1 million metric tons of cargo was handled by all U.S. and Canadian ports and marine terminals on the Great Lakes-Seaway system. The movement of this cargo generated a number of positive economic impacts:

  • Business Revenue – As a result of maritime activity on the Great Lakes-Seaway system, US$33.6 billion (Cdn$34.6 billion) in business revenue was received by firms supplying cargo handling and vessel services, and inland transportation services.
  • Local Purchases – Businesses involved in maritime activity in the Great Lakes-Seaway system spent US$6.4 billion (Cdn$6.6 billion) on purchases in their respective local economies.
  • Taxes – A total of US$4.6 billion (Cdn$4.7 billion) in federal, state/provincial and local tax revenue was generated by maritime activity on the Great Lakes-Seaway system in 2010.

The study is posted on the Green Marine website.

Environmental Benefits of Short Sea Shipping

A recent study entitled “Environmental and Social Impacts of Marine Transport in the Great Lakes – St Lawrence Seaway Region”, published in February 2013, has examined the impacts that can be compared between rail, truck and vessel. These included fuel efficiency; greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions; criteria Air Contaminant (CAC) emissions; traffic congestion; infrastructure impacts and noise impacts. In addition to clearly confirming that short sea shipping is the most environmentally friendly mode of transport with respect to all of these issues, and that this performance will also significantly improve in the coming years, the study also quantify impacts of modal shift of Great Lakes cargo. For example, moving all Great Lakes- Seaway cargo by truck would take 7.1 million additional truck trips in the region, i.e. an increase in the range of 35 to 100 percent in the number of existing trucks on the highways, and truck noise footprint will increase by 40 percent. Modal shift would have adverse consequences on the environment, such as higher levels of GHGs, NOx, and SOx emissions, significant increase in congestion, additional highway infrastructure costs, and increased noise levels.

The study is posted on the Green Marine website.

Define, Defend and Promote (summary)

The need to differentiate short sea shipping from international shipping in the application and development of IMO conventions and national regulations and policies

Define, Defend and Promote (full report)

The need to differentiate short sea shipping from international shipping in the application and development of IMO conventions and national regulations and policies

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