New hands-free mooring technology has been installed throughout the Saint Lawrence Seaway that connects the Atlantic Ocean to the Great Lakes, links the Port of Indiana-Burns Harbor in Northwest Indiana to the wider world and brings international commerce to the Region.

The Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corp. said the new method for locking international vessels known as salties was the most significant technological advance since the Seaway opened in 1959.

“This new technology is a significant modernization of the St. Lawrence Seaway’s infrastructure, and will enhance workplace safety, lower operating costs for carriers, and decrease vessel transit times through the locks,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao said in a news release.

The United States invested $23 million to install the new mooring technology on its side of the border it shares with Canada. The new tech uses vacuum pads with up to 20 tons of holding force that are mounted on lock walls and released when vessels need to pass through.

“The Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corp. has a long history of implementing technological innovations to improve the safety and efficiency of its operations,” Deputy Administrator Craig Middlebrook said. “Hands-free mooring will dramatically improve the vessel transit experience through the seaway by enhancing safety and achieving greater efficiencies in freight movement.”

Traffic has been increasing on the Great Lakes, with a 7% rise in salties passing through the St. Lawrence Seaway last year. International vessels brought 41 million tons of cargo to Great Lakes ports, including the Port of Indiana-Burns Harbor, the highest total since 2007.

The Port of Indiana-Burns Harbor handled 2.7 million tons of cargo last year.
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