March 22 - The Great Lakes St. Lawrence Seaway System has opened for its 58th navigation season, two weeks ahead of schedule.

Canada Steamship Lines' ship Thunder Bay marked the official opening of the system as it passed through Lock 3 on the Welland Canal carrying a cargo of road salt destined for Canada.

The St. Lawrence Seaway System opened ice-free after a particularly mild winter.

"We certainly welcome the warmer weather," said Terence Bowles, president and ceo of the St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation (SLSMC). "A return to an opening in the third week of March provides our clients with the opportunity to move cargo in a timely manner, and make the most of the navigation season."

Bowles expects 2016 to be a good year for the Great Lakes St. Lawrence Seaway System, with a lower Canadian dollar anticipated to encourage more Canadian exports.

"The combination of a rebound in Canadian manufacturing activity, a solid US economy, and the prospect of more trade with Europe brings about several catalysts which may boost Seaway tonnage," he said.