Smart Shipping - Challenges & Opportunities for the Great Lakes St. Lawrence Region

Smart technologies and systems are transforming the global maritime sector. GSGP commissioned HPC Hamburg Port Consulting to explore how our region can capitalize on this trend. Opportunities focus on leveraging smart shipping to increase efficiency, improve environmental performance and grow cargo trade. Smart shipping is in its infancy in the Great Lakes St. Lawrence region yet holds great promise if it builds on current initiatives, recognizes challenges and is approached strategically. This report will serve as an important resource as the region moves ahead with deploying smart shipping solutions.



COVID-19 and Great Lakes St. Lawrence Shipping

Maritime transportation is critically important to the regional and national economies. To ensure the health and safety of workers in this essential industry, GSGP worked to better understand the effects of COVID-19 on the maritime sector, and the major policies and practices in place to prevent or mitigate the spread of COVID-19. A consultant report is focused on protective policies and practices undertaken at ports and on vessels to promote health and safety. On August 5, GSGP hosted a COVID-19 and Great Lakes St. Lawrence Shipping webinar that featured:

  • Mr. Eric Oberhart, Senior Consultant, CPCS Transcom

  • Mr. Clayton Harris III, Executive Director, Illinois International Port District

  • Mr. Paul Topping, Director of Regulatory and Environmental Affairs, Chamber of Marine Commerce


New Soo Lock Gets Needed Funding

At the end of 2019, the US federal government approved $75.33 million for the new Soo Lock. Additionally, Congress has directed the US Army Corps of Engineers to allocate additional funds needed to efficiently fund the project and keep the construction on schedule and within budget. The action follows the Governors’ call for this funding and the recent trip to Washington, DC, by senior State officials and industry partners.

Altogether, these funds will lay the groundwork for the next major milestone: the construction of the lock chamber. With continued efficient funding, the construction of the new lock could be complete in seven years, saving $30 million from the estimated project cost. This funding is a major success for the region, and a product of the broad regional coalition that the Governors and Premiers have helped to build with their regional maritime strategy.


The New Soo Lock Needs Efficient Funding

In October 2019, GSGP convened a series of meetings and a Congressional staff briefing in Washington, DC, focused on efficient funding of the new Soo Lock. Meeting participants included representatives from the States and Provinces, industry, ports, and GSGP staff. The US Army Corps of Engineers says that efficient funding would allow savings of $30 million and accelerate benefits to the users and the nation’s economy. The Soo Locks are a vital component of the nation’s infrastructure. They are essential to the movement of the raw materials used by steel producers, automakers, and other major manufacturers in the Great Lakes region and beyond. This June, the Great Lakes Governors called on Congress to fully fund the construction of a new Soo Lock at Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan. Efficient funding is now needed to maximize design and construction work each year of the project, thereby saving money and reducing the overall project timeline.


Governors and Premiers Look to the Future of Maritime Transportation

The Great Lakes St. Lawrence region is creating the maritime transportation system of the future. On June 14, 2019, at their Leadership Summit in Milwaukee, the Governors and Premiers took steps to boost global connections and trade, grow the region’s cruise industry, and showcase cutting-edge technologies. Specific actions included:

  • Releasing an action plan with the Port of Antwerp (Belgium) to double maritime trade with Western Europe. Antwerp is the gateway to Europe, the main overseas trading partner of Great Lakes St. Lawrence ports.
  • Announcing the “Cruise the Great Lakes” brand and marketing campaign to accelerate the growth of regional cruising.
  • Showcasing cutting-edge maritime technologies with an autonomous research ship demonstration in Milwaukee harbor. The region’s first smart ship test was previously held at the Marine Autonomy Research Site in Houghton, Michigan--the world’s first freshwater test site for smart ship technologies. 
  • Signing a memorandum with the Central Commission for the Navigation of the Rhine (CCNR) focused on governance and best practices. CCNR is the world’s oldest international organization and a model for maritime coordination.

These strategic actions are designed to help achieve the Governors’ and Premiers’ goals to double maritime trade, shrink the environmental impact of our transportation network, and support the region’s industrial core. Aggressive follow-through is planned with regional and global partners in coming months and years.


Governors and Premiers Launch "Cruise the Great Lakes"

On August 30, 2018, against the backdrop of a cruise ship docked at Mackinac Island, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder today helped launch “Cruise the Great Lakes,” a new international partnership to bring more cruise passengers to the Great Lakes.

 “Cruise the Great Lakes” is the newest project of the Great Lakes St. Lawrence Governors & Premiers, (GSGP) of which Governor Snyder is the chair.

 “I am excited to bring more cruise ships to our wonderful Great Lakes so visitors can experience our fantastic shoreline communities,” Governor Rick Snyder said. “Cruising on the Great Lakes is poised for major growth in the coming years, with significant economic benefits for the entire region. In 2018, our waterways saw nearly 100,000 port visits by passengers. This initiative aims to increase those numbers, which in turn, increases the amount of economic impact.”

The news conference, attended by executives representing the Great Lakes travel industry, coincided with a port of call by Victory Cruise Line’s luxury ship, Victory 1, which is in its third year touring the Great Lakes. Victory Cruise Lines operates two identical 84-crewmember, 202-passenger ships in the Great Lakes, Victory 1 and Victory II.

The full news release can be found here.

Governors and Premiers Release Smart Ships Action Plan

On August 10, 2018, the Governors and Premiers released a Smart Ships Action Plan.  The Action Plan includes policy recommendations for the federal governments, states and provinces, and industry to help the region become a leader in this rapidly growing sector. 

Smart ships represent a major leap forward in maritime technology. The regional Smart Ships Coalition is working to implement the Action Plan and establish the region as a global center of excellence for smart ship technologies.  The opening of the Marine Autonomy Research Site at Michigan Tech University is another important step for our region and will help accelerate our work to create the needed policies and regulations for smart ships.

GSGP Executive Director David Naftzger spoke during the August 10th event in Houghton, Michigan.

Regional Coalition Calls for Review of US Great Lakes Pilotage

On July 10, a regional coalition comprising government, industry, and ports called upon the US federal government to undertake a comprehensive review of the US Great Lakes maritime pilotage system.  The letter to Congressional leaders and the Administration was signed by the Great Lakes St. Lawrence Governors & Premiers, the Chamber of Marine Commerce, and the American Great Lakes Ports Association. This regional coalition looks forward to working with Congress and other partners on this issue.

Great Lakes St. Lawrence Maritime Day Held in Ottawa, Ontario

The Great Lakes St. Lawrence Governors & Premiers convened a Maritime Day in Ottawa, Ontario, on April 18-19, 2018. This event brought together representatives from the States and Provinces, federal governments, industry, and other regional stakeholders. Participants discussed a variety of topics including trade corridors, system management, pilotage, and new technologies.

First Great Lakes St. Lawrence Maritime Day Held in Washington, DC

The Great Lakes St. Lawrence Governors & Premiers convened their first Maritime Day in Washington, D.C. on December 13-14, 2017. This event brought together representatives from the States and Provinces, federal governments, industry, and other regional stakeholders. Participants discussed regional priorities and met with Congressional representatives to continue creating the future of the regional maritime system. Focus areas included smart ships, the cruising industry, and the Soo Locks. The next Maritime Day will take place on April 18-19, 2018, in Ottawa, Ontario. 

Governors and Premiers Adopt Resolution on Maritime System Management

At their 2017 Leadership Summit in Detroit and Windsor, the Great Lakes St. Lawrence Governors & Premiers adopted a resolution on management of the region's maritime transportation system (MTS).  The resolution calls on the US and Canadian federal governments to collaboratively manage the MTS as a harmonized transportation system and to develop a bi-national treaty that will help improve transparency, efficiency, accountability and regulatory harmony.

Governors and Premiers Release Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Maritime Strategy

On June 15, 2016 the Great Lakes St. Lawrence Governors & Premiers released the first-ever regional strategy to jump start the Great Lakes St. Lawrence maritime transportation system. The strategy’s objectives are to double maritime trade, shrink the environmental footprint of the region’s transportation network, and support the region’s industrial core.  Once fully implemented, the strategy will help grow the region’s maritime sector, which already contributes more than US$30 billion to the US and Canadian economies and accounts for more than 220,000 jobs. 

Final Strategy for the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Maritime Transportation System

Full Press Release

Governors and Premiers Release Regional Maritime Priorities

At their 2015 Leadership Summit in Quebec City, the Great Lakes St. Lawrence Governors & Premiers released their list of Regional Priorities to improve the Maritime System.  They also provided an overview on the completion of the Maritime asset inventory.

The list of Priorities can be found here.  The Asset Inventory overview can be found here.

Governors and Premiers Rejuvenating Regional Maritime System

At the Great Lakes St. Lawrence Governors & Premiers executive meeting in April 2014, the Governors and Premiers initiated a series of actions to improve our region's maritime transportation system.  Within one year, they committed to:

  • Complete a maritime asset inventory for each State and Province.  This will be the first such inventory to be conducted on a regional basis and will inform future management decisions.
  • Develop regional maritime priorities.  These priorities will help establish regional consensus and guide future management and funding.
  • Create a regional maritime entity model in order to better coordinate maritime planning and management according to regional priorities.

For more information on the Great Lakes St. Lawrence Governors & Premiers' Maritime Initiative and Task Force, click here.