Strike impacting shipping on Duluth’s St. Lawrence Seaway

Portions of the St. Lawrence Seaway in Canada are shut down after the unionized workers at Canada’s St. Lawrence Management Corporation went on strike on Sunday.

According to 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS’ sister station WDIO, the closure of any part of The Seaway, a system of canals and locks through Ontario, New York, and Quebec, essentially results in the closure of the entire waterway.

Negotiators from the St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation (SLSMC) and UNIFOR, the trade union representing workers, attempted to reach an agreement on a new employment contract for several months. The union gave a 72-hour strike notification as required under Canadian law last Wednesday. Negotiations are continuing between the SLSMC and UNIFOR, with stakeholders throughout the Great Lakes calling on the Canadian government to engage in the process and end the impasse.

“This situation affects oceangoing activity for the entire Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway System, which makes it everyone’s concern,” said Deb DeLuca, executive director of the Duluth Seaway Port Authority.

Several ships already loaded with exports are currently unable to exit the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway System and more and more inbound ships are unable to enter or pass through, according to WDIO.

One vessel presently loading wheat in Duluth is scheduled to deliver its cargo to Algeria upon departure through the now-shuttered Seaway. Several subsequent ships are scheduled to arrive in Duluth-Superior via the Seaway for grain in the coming weeks. Various other vessels are scheduled to arrive with imports to support regional manufacturing.

“This interruption of Seaway operation has immediate and longer-term consequences for Great Lakes ports, the entire Seaway System, and countries around the world hungry for our exports, especially now, during peak grain harvest season,” DeLuca said. “We call on both parties in this dispute to reach a resolution quickly and reopen the Seaway. System stakeholders, including the Port of Duluth-Superior, its terminals, workers, and cargo owners, are experiencing economic and reputational harm as a result of this impasse. Additionally, countries that rely on our grain exports are left waiting and hungry. The toll will continue mounting until the System reopens.”

This is the first strike-related, midseason closure of The Seaway since 1968, which handled over 36 million tons of cargo and supported more than 24,000 jobs in the U.S. alone in 2022.