Cash Market Moves

St. Lawrence Seaway, Soo Locks Open Great Lakes Shipping Season Early

Mary Kennedy
By  Mary Kennedy , DTN Basis Analyst
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The Joseph L. Block made its way into the Poe Lock, part of the Soo Locks system, kicking off the 2024 navigation season at 6 p.m. on March 22, according to the USACE Detroit District. (Photo by Chief Lockmaster Mark Aldrich)

The Soo Locks in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, opened the Poe Lock to all marine traffic at 6 p.m. on March 22, as the Joseph L. Block marked the start of the 2024 Great Lakes shipping season. The shipping industry requested an early season opening (three days earlier than usual) due to the urging of major steel producers, noted the USACE Detroit District in a news release.

The Soo Locks are a set of parallel locks, operated and maintained by the United States Army Corps of Engineers, Detroit District, located on the St. Mary's River. The Locks allow freighters to navigate between Lake Superior and the lower Great Lakes, the St. Lawrence Seaway and international markets.

"The St. Lawrence Seaway has announced that it will open this spring on March 22. We would like to match that early opening at the Soo," President of the Lake Carriers' Association James Weakley said. "We also note that the Seaway strike in 2023 and extreme wind events toward the end of the last operating season left the fleet with undelivered cargo."

Federal regulation (33 CFR 207.440) establishes the operating season based on the feasibility of vessels operating during typical Great Lakes ice conditions.

As mentioned above, the St. Lawrence Seaway opened its 66th season of

operation March 22 with an official ceremony in Niagara Region. The inaugural vessel of the 2024 season was the Algoma Sault, an Equinox class self-unloading bulk carrier brought into service in 2018 with new technology to increase fuel efficiency and reduce environmental impact.

Algoma Central Corporation, owner of the vessel, is celebrating its 125th anniversary in 2024, and was represented at the event by President and CEO Gregg Ruhl.

"The St. Lawrence Seaway is not just a passage for vessels but an essential conduit for Canada's economic and environmental prosperity," said Ruhl. "Ship owners and operators, shippers, ports, shipyards, suppliers, and the Seaway are all part of this vital binational network."

The St. Lawrence Seaway will celebrate its 65th anniversary in 2024.

The last piece of the puzzle for the 2024 season will come with the arrival of the first saltie (ocean-going ship) in the Port of Duluth Superior, opening the 2024 grain shipping season there.

The Port did open for the laker season (vessels that transit the Great Lakes) when John T. Boland headed out, becoming the first ship leaving the Port onto Lake Superior in 2024. The Boland was also the last ship to arrive in Duluth for winter layup on Jan. 21, 2024.…

Learn more here about the Soo Locks:…

Learn more here about the Great Lakes Seaway:…

USACE press release:…

St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation press release:…

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