Economic Impacts Study

The Economic Impacts of the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway System

Martin Associates (July 2018)

Martin Associates (October 2011)


Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway Economic Impacts Study Results Released

Seaway System Shipping Supports Over 237,000 Jobs; $35 Billion in Economic Activity


Washington, DC (July 18, 2018) – The Great Lakes Seaway Partnership announces the release of Economic Impacts of Maritime Shipping in the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Region, a year-long study of the economic impacts of the entire Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway navigation system. The study is a definitive and detailed report documenting the many contributions made by the Great Lakes Seaway system* to federal, state/provincial and local economies.

The study reports that in 2017 maritime commerce supported:

  • 237,868 jobs
  • $35 billion in economic activity
  • $14.2 billion in personal income and local consumption expenditures
  • $6.6 billion in federal, state/provincial and local tax revenue

The study also highlights the specific economic benefits of key navigation infrastructure, such as the St. Lawrence Seaway locks and the Soo Locks. The study reports that in 2017:

  • 123,172 U.S. and Canadian jobs were dependent on the Soo Locks
  • 92,661 jobs were generated by cargo transiting the St. Lawrence Seaway locks


2018 Executive Summary & Full Report

Download the Economic Impacts Study Report and Executive Summary below:


2018 Port Versions


2018 Infographics

Download infographics featuring key insights from the Economic Impacts Study below:


“This report validates what we’ve long known – that the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway is crucial to the US economy,” says Craig H. Middlebook, Deputy Administrator of the U.S. Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation “This bi-national waterway not only provides a multitude of well-paying jobs – on land and at sea – it offers a cost-effective, safe and fuel-efficient means of moving goods to and from domestic and global markets.”


The Heartland of the US and Canada

The Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway (comprised of the five Great Lakes – Superior, Michigan, Huron, Erie and Ontario – their connecting channels and the St. Lawrence River) serves the industrial and agricultural heartland of the US and Canada. If the region was its own country, it would be the 3rd largest economy in the world with a combined GDP of more than $6 trillion dollars. In 2017, 143.5 million metric tons of cargo (valued at $15.2 billion) moved through the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway. The St. Lawrence Seaway is also the longest deep draft navigation system in the world, extending 2,300 miles from its westernmost point in Duluth, Minnesota to the Atlantic Ocean. North American farmers, steel producers, construction firms, food manufacturers and power generators depend on the system to move raw materials and finished products including iron ore, coal, stone, salt, sugar, grain, steel, wind turbine components and heavy machinery. These cargoes become the staples of everyday life – food and other household items; buildings, factories, roads and bridges; vehicles and planes; and provides the energy that powers cities and towns.

“The study reflects the enormous contributions the maritime industry provides to the more than 100 ports in each of the Great Lakes states and the provinces of Ontario and Quebec,” says Steven A. Fisher, Executive Director of the American Great Lakes Ports Association. “The jobs supported by the maritime industry include not only those located directly on the waterfront – shipyard workers, stevedores, vessel operators, terminal employees, truck drivers and marine pilots – but also grain farmers, construction works, miners and steelworkers. Many of these jobs would vanish if not for a dynamic maritime industry.”

About the Economic Impacts Study

The Economic Impacts of Maritime Shipping in the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Region, which uses 2017 datawas conducted by economic consultants Martin Associates of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, a global leader in transportation economic analysis and strategic planning. Martin Associates was retained to perform this analysis by a coalition of U.S. and Canadian Great Lakes and St. Lawrence marine industry stakeholders, including: Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation, the St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation, the American Great Lakes Ports Association, the Chamber of Marine Commerce, the Lake Carriers Association, and the Shipping Federation of Canada.

The analysis was developed from comprehensive interviews with more than 750 individual firms with 1,105 operations throughout the region. The report provides the navigation community, transportation planners, government policy makers and the general public with an assessment of the economic impacts of the entire Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway navigation system.

* The Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway System includes impacts of domestic and international cargo that has travelled at some point through the Great Lakes, its connecting rivers and the St. Lawrence Seaway (ending at St. Lambert Lock in Montreal). It excludes Quebec commerce that moves exclusively between Canadian ports on the lower St. Lawrence River, as well as commerce between these Canadian lower St. Lawrence River ports and overseas ports.

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