North Star Port

Duluth North Star Port - Summer 2023

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N RECENT HARBOR LINE columns, I've waxed enthusiastic about new lead- ership at the Great Lakes St. Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation (GLS), the creation of a Great Lakes Authority, the announcement of a Green Shipping Corridor for the Great Lakes- St. Lawrence Seaway, and the start of trans-Atlantic liner service connecting the Port of Duluth- Superior to Antwerp, Belgium, with regular sailings throughout the Seaway shipping season. All of these are excit- ing developments for the system that portend the possibility of expanded use of the nation's longest inland deep-sea ship- ping waterway. This should be an opportune moment. And yet, we lack some key information we need to fully realize these opportunities. Since I started as the Duluth Seaway Port Authority's gov- ernment and environmental affairs director in 2014, the common wisdom has been that the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway System (the system) is used at only about 50% of its capacity based upon lock occupancy and dock availability. Possible reasons for this underuse are handed out like candy on Halloween: pilotage fees, Canadian Seaway tolls, lack of broad familiarity with use of the system on the part of benefi- cial cargo owners, freight forwarders and third-party logistics providers, system seasonality, Jones Act considerations, lack of consistent back-haul opportunities, and other contenders. But when pressed to quantify the impact of these factors, the candy-givers disappear. The reasons for expanding use of the system are clear and have never been more important. Using the Great Lakes- St. Lawrence Seaway System to move goods to, from, and within the middle of the continent represents a significant emissions reduction opportunity and removes congestion from our high- ways, most notably from the Chicagoland nexus. But unless we can speak concretely, objectively and numerically about the barriers to, and opportunities presented by, expanded use of the system, we will struggle to optimize these benefits and our moment will pass. Our next step should be to undertake a calculated study of these barriers and opportunities. The study's objective should be a set of neutral data that will support open, non-emotional discussion, problem-solving and policy generation. We did something similar in Duluth in 2016 when planning officials thought we no longer had to plan for industrial land use because industrial jobs were being replaced by technology. Recognizing the need to better inform policy decisions, we hired a highly respected economic development non-profit to conduct a study on the role of industry in Duluth's economy. The resultant data, clearly presented, were irrefutable and reversed attitudes toward industry, building recognition of the importance of industrial jobs to equitable economic development, triggering industrial workforce development efforts, and strengthening the position of industrial land use in City of Duluth plans. A perfect funding source exists for this Seaway system study: Congress has supplemented the GLS budget with an addi- tional $6 million specifically targeted for marketing, trade, and economic development. The American Great Lakes Port Association is well positioned to partner and manage the study as it did for the recently released 2023 economic impact study of the system. One final element is critical: the study should be conducted by a highly reputable think tank or economic con- sultancy without prior association with the system. With the resultant information, we can plan solutions to the barriers and clear pathways to the opportunities. I DULUTHPORT.COM | 1 THE HARBOR LINE Deb DeLuca Executive Director "THE REASONS FOR EXPANDING USE OF THE SYSTEM ARE CLEAR AND HAVE NEVER BEEN MORE IMPORTANT." PHOTO / Adam Bjornberg

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