The St. Lawrence Seaway officially opened its 56th season on the Welland Canal Friday morning.
The first ship came into the canal, but had to be tied up in Thorold, to wait until the ice melts a bit. The event kicked off with the Top Hat ceremony.
There were the obligatory photo opportunities. And the ship sounding its horn, officially signaling the start of the season.
But there’s a lot of ice in Lake Erie — it’s still 95 per cent covered.
So, why open today? What’s the rush?
Terence Bowles is with the St. Lawrence Seaway: “What’s the rush? I think there’s people waiting for iron ore in Hamilton. We’d like to get it to them as quickly as we can.”
Only hours after the opening, shipping traffic on the canal is stalled. The Algoma Equinox is on its way up to Thunder Bay to pick up 30 thousand tons of grain. But so far it’s only gotten as far as lock seven in Thorold. It’s being tied up there to wait until the ice gets softer — it’s still three feet thick off Port Colborne.
Even the ice breakers are having a hard time smashing through.
Greg Wight is with Algoma Central: “There’s a ship in Thunder Bay today trying to break out the harbour. That has to be done in order for us to get in.”
Usually when there’s a ceremony for the first up bound ship at lock three — there’s another ceremony the same day for the first down bound vessel in Port Colborne. But
because of the ice, there aren’t ships coming from Lake Erie until next weekend.
There’s even ice in lock seven. And when the ships do start moving, they’ll still have to be escorted by ice breakers. the ship crews don’t want get trapped out there.
Now the entire St. Lawrence Seaway opens Monday. If there are any ships in the system, they’ll be moving fairly slowly. Because these bad icing conditions will probably take three weeks to clear.