A new report is highlighting the environmental advantages of using marine
shipping to transport goods in the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway region.
That study, released on Tuesday by Marine Delivers, a Great Lakes-St.
Lawrence Seaway shipping trade organization, is entitled “The Environmental
and Social Impacts of Marine Transport in the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence
Seaway Region” and was conducted by Ontario transportation consultants
Research and Traffic Group.
Among other things, the study found that Great Lakes ships are more
fuel-efficient and emit fewer greenhouse gases per thousand cargo-ton miles
than land-based alternatives, and that shifting from marine to road and/or
rail modes of transport would lead to “increased societal impacts including
additional traffic congestion, higher infrastructure maintenance costs, and
significantly greater levels of noise.”
“This bi-national research project is the first time a study has examined
the external impacts of the U.S., Canadian, and international fleets
operating on the navigation system, using actual data from all three
categories of shipowners,” Marine Delivers said. “Previous studies of the
three modes of transport drew comparisons based on the average performance
of each mode, rather than making a like-for-like comparison based on each
mode carrying the same cargo mix.”
“The study findings present a more complete picture of shipping in the Great
Lakes in terms of the benefits of this mode of transportation,” said Steven
Fisher, executive director of the American Great Lakes Ports Association.
“Data from the study will help inform future decisions on subjects ranging
from investments in new technologies, budget allocations for infrastructure
projects, and appropriate levels of regulation, to name just a few. The
marine industry now has the information it needs to address questions by
federal and state governments on the value of shipping to its constituents.”
In terms of energy efficiency and greenhouse gas emissions, the study found
•The Great Lakes-Seaway fleet is nearly seven times more fuel-efficient than
trucks and 1.14 times more fuel-efficient than rail.
•Rail and trucks would emit 19 percent and 533 percent more greenhouse gas
emissions respectively if these modes carried the same cargo the same
distance as the Great Lakes-Seaway fleet.
The study also emphasizes the significant role that marine shipping plays in
reducing congestion on roads and railways:
•It would take 3 million train trips to carry the total cargo transported by
the Great Lakes-Seaway fleet in 2010, as much as double the existing traffic
on some rail lines in Canada and at least a 50 percent increase in traffic
on some of the busiest lines in the U.S.
•It would take 7.1 million truck trips to carry the total cargo transported
by the Great Lakes-Seaway fleet in 2010. That would increase existing truck
traffic by between 35 to 100 percent depending on the highway.
•If Great Lakes-Seaway marine shipping cargo shifted permanently to trucks,
it would lead to $4.6 billion in additional highway maintenance costs over a
An additional assessment gauged the long term efficiency and emissions
performance of Great Lakes vessels after meeting new regulatory standards
and achieving improvements with new technology and the use of low sulfur
fuels between 2012 to 2025. The Great Lakes-Seaway fleet would record an
86-percent reduction in nitrous oxide emissions and an 85-percent reduction
in particulate matter emissions, among others.
The Great Lakes-Seaway marine shipping industry supports 227,000 jobs in the
U.S. and Canada, generates $35 billion in business revenue, and moves 164
million metric tons of cargo annually on the system, Marine Delivers said.
“This vital trade corridor saves companies $3.6 billion per year in
transportation costs compared to the next least-costly land-based