Behind the Scenes at the Welland CanalShip Inspection and a Look at a Typical Transit of the Canal
Our guide Capt. Soni is one of two ship inspectors working from the Corporation's Niagara Region Office building within sight of Lock 4. A master mariner, he started working on ships at the age of fifteen.

All foreign vessels are inspected as they enter the Seaway in Montreal and cleared for transit. A Ship Inspector from the Niagara Region Office will be sent to a vessel if there have been any changes to the vessel that will effect its ability to safely transit the canal. This includes investigating accidents but the focus is on preventing conditions that could cause an accident.

By Jeff Thoreson Captain Soni had boarded the salt water freighter Tecam Sea in Lock 1. The reason for his visit was a Light Draft Inspection. Her crew of 21 carried a cargo of steel from Mexico to Hamilton, Ontario. After unloading the vessel was riding in ballast, this made the Tecam Sea higher in the water than it was when loaded with cargo. Capt. Soni worked with the vessel's captain to ensure that it could safely pass through the bridges that pass over the Welland Canal.

We join the Tecam Sea at Lock 2. The Tecam Sea is a 584' 08" long bulk carrier registered in the Bahamas and built in 1983. She is owned by Elmira Shipping and Trading S.A., Athens, Greece. After unloading the vessel was sailing upbound for Thunder Bay to load grain for Spain and Italy.

Foreign ships on the Great Lakes are often regarded by boatwatchers as appearing to be poorly maintained. Their hulls show signs of exposure to salt water, there are markings from tug boats pushing on their hull and paint is warn from the bow were the towing cable has rubbed across it. The outward appearance is deceiving, once onboard the ship is clean and well maintained. As a vessel travels around the globe it is inspected by local officials at almost every port. She sails with an international crew that is skilled and polite. Her Captain is Panos Pagonis who is from Greece, his crew is made up of men from the Philippines.

As a foreign ship transits the Seaway they are required to have a pilot onboard with local knowledge of the rivers and locks. The pilots are highly skilled mariners, many sailed on Canadian or American vessel before becoming pilots. The pilot directs the vessels movement and is in control of the vessel. The Captain of a vessel is responsible for anything that happens on a trip and places his trust in the pilot's skills.

Vessels are held in the locks by heavy wires from its winches. As a lock fills with water the ship will try to move in the lock. The massive lock gates are protected against a vessel breaking loose by a Ship Arrester.

Secure in Lock 3, the voyage continues.

A trip below we find a clean and well maintained Engine Room.

We leave the Engine Room and make our way back to the Pilot House

Back in the Pilot House our trip is almost complete.

As we return to Lock 1 the Mapleglen is inbound sailing light from Quebec. She is sailing upbound for Windsor where she will load one cargo hold and then sail on to Thunder Bay to load grain. We join the vessel for a quick trip from Lock 1 to Lock 2. The Mapleglen is a classic straight deck Canadian bulk carrier. Measuring 715' 03",  she was launched in 1960 .

My sincere thanks to Captain Anil Soni for his hospitality and making this look inside the canal possible.
Thank you also to the St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation, Pilot Tom Roesslein, Captain Pagonis of the Tecam Sea and Captain Richard Samson of the Mapleglen.

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