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Welland Canal Will Observe Traditional Official Opening

(Cornwall, March 26, 2003) - There will be vessel traffic in the ice-free Welland Canal today (Wednesday) continuing until Monday, March 31, when the traditional 'Top Hat' official opening ceremony will take place as scheduled.

The brief, informal ceremony will take place at the Lock Three Welland Canal Centre in St. Catharines commencing at 10:00 a.m., March 31, Michel Drolet, Vice-President Niagara Region of The St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation announced.

For a variety of reasons, including customer demands for cargoes and favourable weather, some ships have been given special permission to transit the 25-mile waterway this weekend.

"We are not fully staffed at the present time" said Mr. Drolet, "but we will accommodate the demand for ship movement during the next few days". There will only be daylight navigation in the canal until March 31 the Seaway officer noted. Daytime traffic will be 0700 hours to 1900 hours.

Great Lakes ice conditions have created uncertainties for the marine industry and the first official opening date March 25 was postponed to March 31. Until recently some reaches in the canal were covered by solid ice a foot thick.

The powerful Canadian Coast Guard Services ice breaker Pierre Radisson will pass through the canal during the week-end en route to Lake Erie where ice fields will be broken to assist Lake traffic movement.