Great Lakes-St. Lawrence shipping 2021 government wish list

January 19, 2021 — The Chamber of Marine Commerce today unveiled a 2021 wish list for legislative and policymakers to work in partnership with Great Lakes-St. Lawrence shipping towards sustainable economic recovery in Canada and the United States.

The policy wish list comes as the St. Lawrence Seaway, a key segment of the inland navigation waterway, announces that cargo shipments totalled nearly 38 million metric tons in 2020, almost in line with 2019 results. This rebound from earlier in the season was driven by a 27% surge in grain exports. However, many key cargoes shipped through the Seaway and on the wider Great Lakes-St. Lawrence navigation system like iron ore, petroleum and construction materials remained significantly impacted by the pandemic and the outlook for 2021 will be dependent on the pace of economic recovery in both countries.

Bruce Burrows, President and CEO of the CMC, said: “2020 was a difficult year for everyone, including the frontline workers in the Great Lakes, St. Lawrence Seaway, Coastal and Arctic shipping markets that have shown tremendous resiliency.  Our marine workforce continued to safely move goods without interruption — ensuring our citizens and businesses had the essential food, fuel, power, and materials to keep going during one of the worst health and economic crises in modern history.”

“As both Canada and the United States remain in the throes of the pandemic and faced with the complicated tasks of distributing vaccines, we recognize that 2021 will be marked by economic uncertainty and unexpected challenges. But there will also be opportunities to partner with the new U.S. Administration and the Canadian government to build on marine transportation’s significant public interest benefits, and at the same time create jobs, boost our trade potential and protect the environment.”

Policy and regulatory priorities for 2021

  • Ballast Water Management Regs: As ballast water management regulations are likely to be finalized in 2021, it will be critical that Canada and the U.S. work together on an aligned and pragmatic approach for their domestic fleets. A “level playing field” option is being sought that ensures that Canada and the U.S. regulate ballast water in a similar fashion among both fleets, with a timeline that is feasible, achievable and equal.
  • Port and Waterway Infrastructure: The CMC is advocating on both sides of border to secure funding from economic stimulus measures for port and waterway infrastructure to increase trade growth but also for climate change resiliency against persistent high waters throughout the Great Lakes.
  • Safe High-Water Management: In 2020, the St. Lawrence Seaway navigation season through the Montreal-Lake Ontario section was delayed by 12 days to accommodate outflows of water through the Moses-Saunders dam that were unsafe for navigation.  The increased outflow, decided by the International Lake Ontario-St. Lawrence River Board to prevent “potential flooding” on Lake Ontario, had little effect on Lake levels but impacted more than $80 million worth of shipping business.  No flooding occurred on Lake Ontario in 2020 due to more favorable weather. The CMC will continue to seek better water management solutions from the International Joint Commission that ensure safe navigation AND help protect shoreline communities.
  • Pilotage Reform: The CMC will work with the Canadian government to develop new pilotage regulations under a common understanding of improved efficiency while maintaining the current high standards of safety. 
  • Greenhouse Gas Reductions: The CMC will continue to encourage governments to recognize that ships are the most fuel-efficient and carbon-friendly way to move goods and an important part of the solution to address climate change. As the shipping industry, which contributes less than 1% of all GHG emissions in Canada, works hard to further reduce its carbon footprint, CMC will advocate for regulatory, policy and program measures that encourage increased use of inland shipping, incentivize technology development and the expansion of alternative fuels; and reflect the operational realities of our members.
  • Coast Guard Icebreaking Assets: The CMC seeks additional Coast Guard commitment for icebreaking assets in the Lakes from both countries, and from Canada in the lower St. Lawrence River, along with finalizing arrangements for an additional interim icebreaker for the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence Seaway.


Find out more about the Chamber’s position on:

Marine Economic Recovery Plan:

Ballast Water Management:

High Water:

Flickr – Download photos of Great Lakes-St. Lawrence shipping:


About the Chamber of Marine Commerce

The Chamber of Marine Commerce is a bi-national association that represents more than 100 marine industry stakeholders including major Canadian and American shippers, ports, terminals and marine service providers, as well as domestic and international ship owners. The Chamber advocates for safe, sustainable, harmonized and competitive policy and regulation that recognizes the marine transportation system’s significant advantages in the Great Lakes, St. Lawrence, Coastal and Arctic regions.


Media Contact:

Julia Fields

Chamber of Marine Commerce

(613) 294-8515