OGDENSBURG, N.Y. (WWTI) — The St. Lawrence Seaway is shut down.
On October 22, Canadian Seaway union workers, represented by UNIFOR, officially went on strike.
This was following unsuccessful salary and contract negotiations between the union and the St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation. UNIFOR’s 72-hour strike notice was officially filed on October 18.
The strike resulted in the shutdown of the St. Lawrence Seaway, according to an additional press release from the SLSMC, and stopped all cargo shipping across the Great Lakes.
Although a Canadian dispute, it has many worried about how it will affect North America.
“The entire Great Lakes region as a whole is the world’s third-largest economy,” Michael Folsom, from the Seaway Ship Watchers Network emphasized. “It’s now choking because of these locks not being operable.”
Two U.S. locks in Massena, New York are currently inoperable as traffic has been cut off by Canadian locks on each side.
The Port of Ogdensburg, the first U.S. port on the Seaway, is already bracing for these impacts.
“So without ships moving, commerce is essentially stopped,” Ogdensburg Bridge and Port Authority Economic Development Director Anthony Adamcyzk said. “For the short term, we worry about the cargoes that are currently on the vessels. But long term, we’re concerned about the reputational impact.”
According to data from the Seaway, cargo moved through the international waterway accounts for $50.9 billion in economic activity, $23.3 billion in wages and over 350 thousand jobs.
The timing of the strike is also a concern because of grain exports. As fall farming season wraps up, experts say the fall is “crunch time” for the Seaway.
“Farmers, they’re just not able to move product,” Folsom explained. “As grain elevators fill with this product, there’s nowhere else to put it because there’s no ships to put it on.”
The main import at the Port of Ogdensburg is road salt and as of late October, the port was not awaiting additional shipments.
But Adamcyzk said the longer the strike goes on, the harder it will hit the North Country, New York and the entire country.
“Estimates we’ve seen, it’s about a $110 million a day impact for Canada and the United States,” Adamczyk said. “We need a waterway that’s dependable and that the outside world knows that they can rely on.”
Union workers represented by UNIFOR are set to return to the bargaining table. UNIFOR and the Seaway were called back for remediation, which will take place in Toronto, Ontario on October 27.