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Poe Lock Shutdown Shakes Great Lakes Shipping Industry

A malfunction of the Poe Lock at Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, on September 24 has illustrated the pressing need for Congress to appropriate the funds to build another lock capable of handling the largest U.S.-Flag Great Lakes freighters, according to a statement by the Lakes Carriers Association.

Although the vessel delays totaled only about three hours, had the problem been more severe, cargo movement on the Lakes would have slowed to a trickle. U.S.-flag
lakers whose length and/or beam restrict them to the Poe Lock represent 70 percent of U.S.-flag carrying capacity.

“The Poe Lock that connects Lake Superior to the lower Great Lakes is the single point of failure that can cripple Great Lakes shipping,” said James H.I. Weakley, president of Lake Carriers’ Association. “In 2007, the Poe Lock handled nearly 65 million tons of cargo. Without that lock, America’s steel industry is cut off from its major source of iron ore. Without that lock, Great Lakes basin utilities are denied access to cleanburning
low-sulfur coal. There just aren’t enough ships that are small enough to transit the MacArthur Lock to make up for loss of Poe-class vessels.”

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