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Canadian fleets expand on Great Lakes

DULUTH -- The expansion of Canadian Great Lakes shipping fleets continues.

The Montreal-based Fednav Limited announced Thursday the planned addition of six new vessels capable of international trade and work on the Great Lakes.

The 34,000-ton bulk carriers are sized to use the St. Lawrence Seaway and are specially equipped for navigating in ice. They will be built at Oshima Shipyard in Japan and delivered between May and November 2015 as part of a series of 27 new ships (including 14 lakers) added to Fednav’s fleet since Jan. 1, 2012.

The six new vessels will have box holds, better suited for a variety of general cargo like steel and project cargo.

“This investment highlights Fednav’s commitment to the Great Lakes, and to our customers and partners in the industrial heart of North America,” Fednav President and co-CEO Paul Pathy said in a news release. “The Great Lakes St. Lawrence System is a very valuable part of the two countries’ economies. This order by Fednav demonstrates our clear goal to remain the leader in international Great Lakes shipping.”

Fednav currently operates more than 80 vessels. The company operates a fleet of Seaway-sized bulk carriers that carry cargos between the Great Lakes and ports overseas, including the Federal Hunter and Federal Elbe, the first two salties to reach Duluth-Superior, Wis., this year.

Thursday’s announcement was the latest in a string of such announcements since Canada’s 2010 repeal of a 25 percent duty on ships built abroad.

In August 2011, the Algoma Central Corp. christened the 740-foot-long Algoma Mariner, the first new Canadian flag dry-bulk carrier on the lakes in 27 years. Built in China, one of the ship’s first voyages took coal from Superior to Nova Scotia. That same year, a Chinese shipyard began building the Algoma Equinox, the first ship in a new class of lakers. Seven additional Equinox-class vessels are expected to join the Algoma fleet by the end of 2014.

Canada Steamship Lines is also having a new class of vessels built overseas. Its Trillium-class Baie St. Paul arrived in Canada from China last year. It is the CSL’s first new laker in 27 years. CSL has ordered three additional Trillium-class self-unloading lakers.

The American laker fleets are not seeing a similar expansion. American ship owners do not have the option of having lakers built overseas -- the Jones Act requires that cargo transported by water between U.S. ports be carried in U.S.-flag ships built in America.

Additionally, since American lakers stay in freshwater, they avoid saltwater corrosion and their hulls last longer. So rather than building new, American ship owners often upgrade their vessels as needed.

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