LCA: Lock closure cost Great Lakes carriers $250,000

The following is the text of a news release from the Lake Carriers' Association (LCA):

(CLEVELAND) — The 20-day closure of the MacArthur Lock at Sault Ste. Marie, Mich., cost U.S.-flag Great Lakes vessel operators nearly $250,000. A misalignment of the miter gates forced the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to close the lock on July 29 and it remained out of service until Aug. 17. During those 20 days, U.S.-flag lakers were delayed 77 times for a total of 6.5 days. The cargoes delayed topped 1.8 million tons.

“The lengthy failure of the MacArthur Lock adds more urgency to our efforts to build a second Poe-sized lock,” said James H.I. Weakley, president of Lake Carriers’ Association. “The MacArthur Lock is 72 years old and the Poe Lock is 46 years old. We must renew this vital infrastructure. Most of the iron ore that feeds our steel mills transits the Soo Locks. Likewise for the low-sulfur coal that generates electricity at many Great Lakes power plants. Without shipping through the Soo Locks, industrial America will be brought to its knees.”

Seventy percent of U.S.-flag carrying capacity on the lakes is restricted to the Poe Lock by the length or beam of the vessel. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers acknowledges the Soo Locks are the single point of failure for the Great Lakes Navigation System. Congress has authorized building a second Poe-sized lock, but the project has not moved forward because a flawed study puts its benefit/cost ratio below 1.0.

“Everyone knows the assumption that the railroads could absorb the 60 million tons of cargo the Poe Lock handles each year is off base,” said Weakley. “Furthermore, many steel mills lack rail access, so without Great Lakes shipping, that industry and others would all but cease to exist.”

Weakley stressed the solution is very simple. “A new, better-focused study must be conducted so this vital infrastructure project can move forward. At the behest of Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), the Corps revisited the assumptions included in its original economic analysis of the project, and its findings should prompt a full re-evaluation of replacing the MacArthur Lock with a Poe-sized lock.”

The Lake Carriers’ Association represents 16 American companies that operate 56 U.S.-flag vessels on the Great Lakes and carry the raw materials that drive the nation’s economy: iron ore and fluxstone for the steel industry, aggregate and cement for the construction industry, coal for power generation, as well as salt, sand and grain. Collectively, these vessels can transport more than 100 million tons of cargo per year. More information is available at

By Professional Mariner Staff