St Lawrence Seaway backlog increases

With traffic still halted on the St Lawrence Seaway, which has been suspended since last Saturday (October 21st) due to a strike by 360 employees with the union Unifor on the Canadian side, dozens of ships were now stacked up waiting at anchor.

In a statement on Wednesday October 25th the Chamber of Marine Commerce warned that the strike was costing the US and Canadian economies up to $70m a day. A more pressing problem is that only about 50 days remained before the waterway would have to close for the winter.

As of earlier this week an estimated 40-plus were currently at anchor on both ends of the Seaway, plus some vessels waiting at piers.

The Chamber of Marine Commerce, which represents US and Canadian shipping companies with business on the Seaway, has called for SLSMC, the union and the Canadian government to take “all necessary steps to resolve the dispute now and resume traffic on the Seaway.”

Canada’s Labour Minister Seamus O’Regan said that the federal government would not impose a top-down solution.  “They know that’s where the deal has to be made. But for too long it was short-circuited — that government would intervene and they wouldn’t have to do the hard work at the table”, O’Regan said.

On Tuesday, O’Regan’s department called Unifor and the SLSMC to meet in Toronto for mediated talks. The discussions should begin today, October 27th, and Unifor said that it would comply with the call.

The US Great Lakes Ports Association on Wednesday called the strike a “hot mess” and called for Canada to “fix it.” It added that “the casual pace at which the parties and the Canadian government are approaching the resolution of this crisis is an outrage. There is no urgency. It is a slap in the face to the many Americans and Canadians who are suffering job losses”. SLSMC has appealed to Canada’s labour commission to compel the union to provide workers for grain shipments while the talks continue, and an administrative review is under way. About half of the seaway’s cargo by value is in outbound grain shipments. Canada’s autumn wheat harvest is about to begin