SEAWAY SPEED-CUT PLAN RAISES SAFETY CONCERNS

SEAWAY SPEED-CUT PLAN RAISES SAFETY CONCERNS

A proposal to increase safety by reducing speeds on a section of the St. Lawrence Seaway is now prompting concerns - about safety.

"It will take an already long trip and add to it," said Capt. Donald Metzger, president of the St. Lawrence Seaway Pilots Association. "That's going to increase the pilot's fatigue and increase the stress on the pilot."The proposal by both Canadian and U.S. regulators would lower the maximum allowable speed for a vessel traveling between the Eisenhower Lock and Deer Island Light #186 to 11.5 knots from 13 knots.

Capt. Metzger said lowering the speed limit could turn what is now nearly an 11-hour transit into a 12-hour trip. A single pilot commands a vessel during the transit.

"If this was just a five-hour trip, it wouldn't be that big a deal," he said. "But in a 12-hour trip, that last hour can seem like an eternity."

David G. Sanders, acting administrator of the Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corp., said that he has been told that the change would increase transit time by a maximum of 30 minutes.

The proposal to lower the speed limit was prompted by residents along the St. Lawrence River who have complained about environmental damage caused by the wakes of fast-moving ships. Also, the section of the Seaway that would be affected by the proposal contains some of the more difficult course changes on the waterway.

"Our primary goals," said the U.S. agency's Mr. Sanders, "are the safety of the system, the protection of the environment, and the reliability and efficiency of the Seaway."

Capt. Metzger has submitted his concerns to the Seaway agency. Mr. Sanders said that those concerns would be considered before the U.S. agency and Canada's St. Lawrence Seaway Authority issue a final rule on the speed reduction.

Capt. Metzger also emphasized that his organization is not objecting to the proposal. Rather, he said, he is simply advising regulators of his concerns.

"If they feel they have to lower it (the speed limit), they should lower it," he said. "We just feel they need to be aware of our concerns."