By Brian Dunn

The new CanEst Transit grain containerization terminal on the site of the former Elevator No. 3 at the Port of Montreal has been opened officially. The old grain elevator had been closed for over 10 years until CanEst decided to take it over and spend $20 million into upgrades, including the addition of specialized equipment for product cleaning, sifting, packaging and containerization. Port of Montreal spent another $4 million on building upgrades and to improve road and rail access. The project created 100 jobs during construction and will initially have seven full-time employees.

CanEst specializes in the containerization of agricultural products and handling of bulk grain, protein and by-products from Quebec, Ontario, Western Canada and U.S, Midwest, destined for Europe, Asia, Africa and Middle East. “The idea for CanEst came about five years ago when I was having coffee with Tony Boemi, Vice-President of Communications at Port of Montreal,” explained Pierre Dagenais, President of CanEst and part of holding company Transit BD, one of three partners in CanEst along with La Coop Fédérée and MGT Holdings S.a.r.l.

“About 12 per cent of grain worldwide (according to consultants Seabury Group) is exported by containers. With my background in the grain business, I knew Montreal was missing out on part of that because they didn’t have the facilities. And for the markets we serve, it made more sense to move it through Montreal than Vancouver.”

One of the biggest advantages CanEst has is its storage capacity of 68,000 tonnes and the fact it is the only transloader in Quebec on port premises with a rail receiving capacity of 350 tonnes an hour and a truck capacity of 210 tonnes an hour. The company expects to handle 100,000 tonnes of grain in its first year, equivalent to 4,000 TEUs and 500,000 TEUs within five years, according to Mr. Dagenais.

CanEst has selected Les Entreprises Yvon Bessette of Longueuil, QC as its intermodal partner for grain coming from the west. It has also signed a five-year agreement with FastFrate to transport containers to Montreal Gateway Terminals and return empties to CanEst. “This project brings added value to standard maritime operations which allows the port to diversify its operations,” said Sylvie Vachon, President and CEO of Montreal Port Authority who took part in the ribbon cutting ceremony. “It also offers shipping companies additional volume to transport. It’s great news for grain producers across the country, for Port of Montreal, for the shipping industry and for the city of Montreal.”