Study details importance of Great Lakes shippingEveryone knows that shipping is big business along the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway.
By: Steve Kuchera, Duluth News Tribune
Everyone knows that shipping is big business along the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway.
A study released Tuesday quantifies just how big.
The first-of-its-kind study found that maritime commerce supported 227,000 jobs; contributed $14.1 billion in annual personal income, $33.5 billion in business revenue and $6.4 billion in local purchases; and added $4.6 billion to federal, state/provincial and local tax revenues.
“We have a lot of faith in the numbers presented,” Duluth Seaway Port Authority Executive Director Adolph Ojard said. “The impact of the maritime industry is huge.”
Knowing just how huge can help policymakers decide how much money to spend on maintenance and upgrades to harbors, locks and other investments.
“These facts and figures will help us fight for our fair share of federal dredging dollars, a second Poe-sized lock at Sault Ste. Marie, Mich., renewal and expansion of the U.S. Coast Guard’s ice-breaking fleet, and other needs that will determine if those jobs stay and grow, or wither and go,” said James H.I. Weakley, president of Lake Carriers’ Association.
The yearlong study — titled “The Economic Impacts of the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway System” — is the first to measure economic impacts for both America and Canada using the same methodology. Commissioned by the marine shipping industry and U.S. and Canadian government agencies, the study was done by Martin Associates of Lancaster, Pa., which calculated the impacts of 2010 cargo movements at 32 U.S. and Canadian ports, including Duluth and Superior.
Detailed numbers on the Twin Ports will be released later this year, Ojard said.
The study went through a peer-review process managed by the U.S. Department of Transportation and Transport Canada.
“The methodology is excellent,” Tony Barrett, a College of St. Scholastica professor and economist, said after examining the study. “The executive summary pretty much says it — shipping has a big impact.”
The shipment of 164 million metric tons of raw materials and finished products a year is essential to a variety of industries across the region.
Additionally, marine shipping saves companies about $3.6 billion a year in transportation costs compared to the cheapest land-based alternative.
“This report bears out what we’ve long known — that the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway is crucial to the U.S. economy,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said. “Not only is marine transportation the single most fuel-efficient and cost-effective way to haul goods from one place to another, but it also supports hundreds of thousands of essential jobs and generates billions of dollars in economic activity.”
Some environmental groups have questioned the wisdom of allowing oceangoing vessels to enter the Great Lakes. The ballast water they discharge in port has introduced invasive species such as zebra and quagga mussels, which are believed to have caused billions in damages by clogging intake pipes, destabilizing the food web and promoting runaway algae growth.
The study found that salties contribute much less to the regional economy than do the fleet of U.S. and Canadian ships that remain in the area. The study did not determine the economic impacts of international shipping to or from St. Lawrence River ports from Montreal east.
Thom Cmar, an attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council, said the report was “extraordinarily one-sided.”
“It’s undeniable that shipping has a big economic footprint, but the better question is, what are the alternatives and what are the investments that need to be made going forward to deal with the downsides of shipping?” Cmar said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.