By Brian Dunn

Recognition of clusters in the Montreal area began in 2005 when the Montreal Metropolitan Community, a planning body covering the Island of Montreal, Laval, Longueuil and the North Shore, created its first Economic Development Plan. The goal of the plan was to identify a strategic framework for the economic development agents in the region to help the Greater Montreal Area (GMA) achieve its full potential. The first six business clusters identified in the plan consist of Aéro Montreal (aerospace industry), Techno Montreal (information technology and communications), Montreal InVivo (life sciences and health technologies), Ecotech Quebec (clean technologies), Finance Montreal (financial services) and the Bureau du cinéma et de la télévision du Québec.

The latest cluster, CargoM, the Logistics and Transportation Cluster of Metropolitan Montreal, was recognized in 2012 following interviews with over 40 industry leaders and a forum involving 75 participants that resulted in a diagnostic action plan for the logistic and transportation (LT) sectors.

Major CargoM members are Port of Montreal which handles nearly 30 million tonnes of cargo annually and over a million TEUs of containers, Aéroports de Montréal which handles nearly 200,000 tonnes of air freight per year, CN Rail which employs over 2,600 in the Montreal area, CP Rail with over 1,000 local employees and the trucking industry with more than 126,000 heavy vehicles on local roads.

The mission of CargoM is to unite all stakeholders from the logistics and transportation sectors whose operations make the GMA a hub, to work on shared goals and take concerted action to strengthen partnerships, boost competitiveness and extend CargoM’s influence. The overall vision is to make the GMA a multimodal operations base renowned and sought after for its operational and environmental performance, for its contribution to the competitiveness of its participants, and contribution to regional economic development.

The goals of CargoM are: To support LT professionals to create wealth and jobs in the GMA; stimulate and take part in GMA’s economic development; help extend the international reach of Montreal as an intermodal hub with the port of Montreal at its core, and to attract new professionals and innovation to its cluster.

CargoM has three working groups with plans to launch another three in 2014. The first is called LT Development Opportunities to provide LT stakeholders in the GMA with the tools to become more competitive and to enhance their contribution to the region’s economic development. The objectives of this group are to develop concepts for a value-added logistics centre for the GMA, and to identify the strengths and weaknesses of Montreal’s supply chain in an international context.

A mission from Montreal went to France and Belgium in September to become familiar with the best practices related to the operations and management of a logistics hub. The working group has planned a seminar for CargoM members where administrators and/or customers of a logistics cluster will be invited to discuss the advantages and opportunities of such entities. In addition, a working committee is identifying priority projects to improve the operations of LT professionals in the GMA.

The second working group is called Communication and Outreach to establish a profile of the economic benefits the LT sector brings to the GMA while promoting the region’s cargo handling capabilities and the movement of goods and freight transportation in the minds of the general public. The objectives of this group are to promote the economic benefits of the LT sector to governments and other stakeholders, including the public, and to counterbalance the negative image of the LT sector by highlighting innovations by local companies. A directory of studies is being created on the industrial sector of logistics and transportation companies in the GMA in addition to a directory of the major stakeholders, followed by a networking event in 2014.

Access and Fluidity for Truck Transportation in the GMA is the name of the third working group which aims to contribute to the establishment of infrastructure, regulatory and technology projects to optimize LT operations, improve traffic conditions and streamline the movement of goods and people in the region.

One experimental pilot project being considered for next year consists of coordinating terminal opening hours with the setting up of a Port Community System, similar to a system that exists in Le Havre that links the communications between all parties in the logistics chain. The objective is to set up processes and procedures which will facilitate transshipment operations of the current supply chain.

A second pilot project in collaboration with Transport Canada consists of equipping 100 trucks with digital recorders to collect data on movements between intermodal and distribution centres. The objective of the project is to track the movement of goods during peak travel times and to develop strategies to improve traffic flows in the GMA.

The three working groups planned for 2014 are entitled Best Practices and Technology, Regulations and Human Resources/ Workforce. The objective of the first group is to adopt and integrate best practices and technology to improve the competitiveness of LT industries while meeting the objectives of sustainable development. The objective of the second group is to identify regulations which should be harmonized or simplified in order to facilitate the operations of the LT sector. The impact of international regulations on the sector will also be examined. The objective of the third working group will be to identify manpower needs and to set up programs and solutions to train, attract and retrain professionals in the LT sector.