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Seaway Reopens, Then Closes

December 3, 1985

VALLEYFIELD, Quebec (AP) _ A snow storm closed the St. Lawrence Seaway just 90 minutes after it reopened following work on a bridge rammed by a freighter, adding delay to what already was a bad shipping season.

″The winds were just too high,″ said seaway spokesman Richard Juteau on Monday. He was unable to say when the seaway might reopen because ″this air mass is very unstable.″

Only two of 55 ships idled by the damaged St. Louis Bridge got through the Beauharois Canal between the time the canal waships Friday morning after the bridge was rammed by the Indian freighter Jalagodavari. Crews worked around the clock over the weekend on the bridge as more than 50 ships lined up awaiting passage.

The winds threatened to force ships aground as they passed through the 600- foot-wide canal about 25 miles southwest of Montreal, Juteau said.

Three hundred miles further west along the seaway, at the Welland Canal in Thorold, Ontario, winds of between 50 mph and 60 mph forced ships to lay at anchor, said seaway spokesman Robert Balcombe.

″They can’t operate in winds like that, so they have to stay tied up,″ he said. ″They’re a lot safer out on the lakes.″

The bridge accident and Monday’s heavy weather came during the critical pre-freezeup part of the shipping season and seven weeks after the wall of a lock collapsed in the Welland Canal, between Lakes Erie and Ontario, closing the seaway for 24 days.

Juteau said Monday’s shipping suspension due to windy weather was not unusual for this time of the year, but that coupled with the Welland lock collapse and the Valleyfield accident it makes a bad year for the seaway worse.

″This year is already one of our worst in memory. We are down about 30 percent in total tonnage this year,″ he said.

Juteau said the three-day Valleyfield blockage backed up 55 ships, 25 bound for the Great Lakes and 30 headed for the Atlantic Ocean. Most of the ocean- bound vessels carried grain shipments from the Midwest.

Seaway officials decided to allow vessels headed for Great Lakes points to pass through the blocked area first so they can complete one last shipping run before the winter freeze, Juteau said.

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