MASSENA, N.Y. (WWIT) — Vessels are back on the St. Lawrence Seaway.

As of 8 a.m. on March 22, the Montreal and Lake Ontario of the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway was open to vessel transits. This marked the 65th navigation season on the Seaway system.

An official ceremony was held at the St. Lambert lock in Montreal and led by the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation and St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation.

“As the binational waterway turns 65, it is resilient and ready for the future,” GLS Administrator Adam Tindall-Schlicht said at the ceremony. “New technologies, an exceptional reliability record and significant investments in infrastructure are enhancing efficiencies and keeping the Seaway safe and competitive.”

The vessel Captain Henry Jackman, a Seawaymax bulk carrier built in 2021 marked the official opening of the Seaway on Wednesday morning.

Shipwatchers from across the North Country waited in anticipation at the Eisenhower Lock in Massena to see the first vessel.

“We just came to see the ships,” Jessica Matteson of Massena shared. “My father-in-law used to work for the Seaway, so we always come out and try to see the first opening ship. To see if one comes up or one down.”

The entire seaway system only closes for a few months out of the year during the winter months. Tindall-Schlicht explained that the winter maintenance period is crucial as it allows for major projects to take place at the Seaway’s 15 locks, such as Massena’s Eisenhower and Snell locks.

“Vessels that come through the locks depend on 24/7 reliability,” the Administrator said. “Meaning that at any point that a vessel would like to go through the Eisenhower and Snell lock, that lock is available and operating effectively, to allow that transit to occur, safely and efficiently.”

According to Administrator Tindall-Schlicht, the 2023 maintenance period was very productive in Massena.

Completed work included diffuser replacement in the locks, concrete repairs and rebuilding the Seaway’s hands-free mooring units for vessels. This technology is used throughout the Great Lakes and secures vessels against lock walls to prevent vibrations.

With these improvements, the Seaway has hopes that the 65th navigation season will be successful.

“I think we’re going to see more activity from international cruise ships, increased exports of U.S. and Canadian agricultural products,” Tindall-Schlicht shared. “We just think it’s an exciting and optimistic time for the Great Lakes Seaway System.”

The remainder of the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway System will open on the following dates:

  • Welland Canal: 8 a.m., March 22, 2023
  • Sault Sy. Marie Locks and Canals: March 25, 2023