On June 15, leaders from Canadian provinces (Ontario, Quebec) and U.S. states (Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin) in the Great Lakes Basin revealed a $3.8 billion dollar plan intended to improve regional maritime infrastructure and boost trade.
Recently, the leaders of these provinces and states formed the Conference of Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Governors and Premiers. They conceived the plan to leverage maritime transport as an economic engine driving job creation. The Great Lakes economy is one of the largest economic forces in North America, totalling $5.8 billion in revenue in 2015. BMO economists stated in April that if it were its own country, the Great Lakes basin would have the third largest economy in the world.
The ten-year maritime strategy was created to improve aging infrastructure in waterways, increase dredging and ice-breaking operations, and reduce other barriers hindering the growth of Great Lakes shipping industry. According to a press release by the Ontario government, “the strategy’s objectives are to double maritime trade, shrink the environmental footprint of the region’s transportation network, and support the region’s industrial core.”
Its major recommendations include:
- Constructing a second “Poe Class” Lock in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan
- Fully funding the asset renewal program of the Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation
- Clearing the $200 million federal harbor dredging backlog at U.S. Great Lakes ports
- Dredging the St. Marys River – a critical choke point – to its authorized depth of 27 feet
- Appropriating $250 million in federal funds to repair breakwalls and other critical nearshore infrastructure
- Adding more Great Lakes icebreakers to the U.S. and Canadian fleets
- Developing recommendations for an agreement between the U.S. and Canada to cooperatively manage the regional maritime system
- Streamlining the U.S.-Canada customs clearance process for cruise passengers and maritime cargo.
- Tapping veterans to boost the region’s maritime workforce by removing barriers to entry for ex-servicemembers under “Military to Maritime” programs.
“Improving maritime transportation is critical to our economies — in order to remain competitive in today’s global markets, we need to improve and expand the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence maritime transportation system,” said Ontario Premier and Co-Chair of the Regional Maritime Entity Kathleen Wynne. “Our new strategy will help guide the sustainable development of maritime trade to ensure that future generations can enjoy the economic and environmental benefits of the region.”