SeawayCompass – Guest Columnist – Great Lakes St. Lawrence Governors & Premiers

David Naftzger

Executive Director, Great Lakes St. Lawrence Governors & Premiers

A Fresh Outlook and Bold Goals in 2020

The Great Lakes St. Lawrence Governors & Premiers have bold goals for our region’s maritime system — to double maritime trade, shrink the environmental footprint of the region’s transportation network and support the region’s industrial core. To accomplish these goals, the Governors and Premiers have helped lead a regional coalition including industry, government and other key partners. Actions include investing in critical infrastructure like the Soo Locks and stimulating innovation in new smart shipping technologies. Ultimately, success depends on growing markets and many groups are working to drive different types of cargoes. In addition to these efforts, the Governors and Premiers have partnered to expand trans-Atlantic trade.

The Governors and Premiers first commissioned a study on maritime trade with Europe to better understand historical patterns, barriers and opportunities. A partnership was created with the Port of Antwerp in Belgium — the top European trading partner by volume for our region’s ports. The study revealed the importance of European trade for our region, and strong growth potential for certain products. Challenges include a lack of visibility in Europe, cost and reliability concerns.

The Conference of Great Lakes St. Lawrence Governors & Premiers (Conference) has spearheaded a campaign to help put our region “on the map” in western Europe. Annual, staff-led missions have helped introduce our region and its maritime opportunities to potential partners in ten different countries. These missions have led to a partnership and series of exchanges with the Central Commission for the Navigation of the Rhine which includes Belgium, France, Germany, the Netherlands and Switzerland.

In April 2020, the Conference will again lead a mission to western Europe. The focus will be on building traffic in breakbulk, heavy lift and project cargoes, and include participation in the AntwerpXL trade show. Delegation members will include staff from the Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation and representatives of our region’s ports that specialize in these types of cargoes. Follow-through will involve continued business development and collaboration with European counterparts including the Port of Antwerp. Port officials are also continuing to engage with our region as we develop smart shipping technologies to improve the safety, speed, efficiency, and environmental footprint of maritime trade.

Separately, and in order to grow a different segment of the maritime market, the Governors and Premiers launched the region’s first consumer marketing initiative to boost passenger cruising on the Lakes. Cruise the Great Lakes now includes about two dozen different groups working together to bring more passengers to our region. The Governors and Premiers have also worked with the US federal government and others to deploy a strategy to smooth passenger customs procedures — historically one of the biggest barriers to regional cruising. New cruise lines are now entering the region and passenger numbers are forecast to grow in coming years.

The Governors and Premiers continue to seek ways to capitalize on our Great Lakes system and increase our region’s economic competitiveness. Thank you to everyone who has played a part in this important work.

 

Source: Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation