The new technology aspires to revolutionize the method for locking vessels through the Seaway and is considered the most important technological advance since the Seaway’s opening in 1959.


SLSDC has invested $23 million to install HFM technology in the US Snell Lock and the US Eisenhower Lock. The project is the first use of this technology for an inland waterway, and the SLSDC has trained its workforce with the skills needed to implement the new system.

The HFM system utilizes vacuum pads, each of which provides up to 20 tons of holding force. The vacuum pads are located on vertical rails inside the lock chamber wall to ensure the ship during the lockage process as it is raised or lowered while keeping it a fixed distance from the lock wall.

The final step in the lockage operation includes the releasing of the vacuum and retraction of the pads so that the ship can sail safely out of the lock.

The full implementation of this new technology is important to the Seaway, especially considering the fact that last year, there was a 7% increase in ships sailing through the St. Lawrence Seaway. These ships moved 41 million tons of cargo through the binational waterway, while the increase in shipping in the St. Lawrence Seaway is the highest cargo total since 2007.

Speaking about the new technology, SLSDC Deputy Administrator Craig H. Middlebrook, explained that Hands-Free Mooring will dramatically improve the vessel transit experience through the Seaway by improving safety and achieving greater efficiencies in freight movement.

This new technology is a significant modernization of the St. Lawrence Seaway’s infrastructure, and will enhance workplace safety, lower operating costs for carriers, and decrease vessel transit times through the locks

stated US Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao.