While Northern Europe remains the Port of Montreal’s main trading partner, new markets continue to open up around the world for the Port.

The Mediterranean is now the point of origin or destination for 20 per cent of the containers moving through the Port. Three services link Montreal directly to Mediterranean ports: the Canada Express 1 and the new Canada Express 2, operated by Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC), and the Med Canada Service (MCA), operated by Hapag-Lloyd.

Moreover, the Port of Montreal is now handling an increasing amount of containers that originate in Southeast Asia and the Middle East. These boxes travel aboard mega-ships via the Suez Canal to transshipment ports in the Mediterranean or Northern Europe where they are then reloaded onto medium-sized ships headed for North America and bound for Montreal.

Today, Asia and the Middle East are the point of origin or final destination for 15 and 8 per cent, respectively, of the containers moving through the Port of Montreal. A country such as Indonesia now represents 7 per cent of the Port’s container traffic.

“More shippers are using the Suez Canal to sail west from Asia to avoid increasing traffic and congestion at North American West Coast ports,” said Tony Boemi, Vice-President of Growth and Development for the Montreal Port Authority.

The Port of Montreal’s traffic with Asia increased by close to 1 per cent in 2014; it was the region that registered the largest traffic gain over the previous year.

The Asian market has become so important to the Port that it now has a representative in Hong Kong, to go along with representation in the United States and Europe. Moreover, the Port has been involved in numerous trade missions to Asia over the past several years. Most recently, Mr. Boemi was part of a trade mission to China led by Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard.

“We were there to promote the Port of Montreal as a reliable and consistent port that, at the end of the day, is a viable alternative to North American West Coast ports and their challenges,” Mr. Boemi said.

One company that uses the Port of Montreal to move cargo from Asia to North America is Dorel Industries Inc. Based in Montreal and operating in 26 countries, Dorel manufactures juvenile products including child car seats, a wide variety of bicycles, and home furniture products. It moves hundreds of containers through the Port of Montreal annually.

“The Port of Montreal is an alternative to North American West Coast ports for reliable and consistent transit times,” said Michael Grier, Corporate Director of Global Logistics for Dorel. “All-water service from China via the Suez Canal into Montreal is competitive both in terms of cost and transit time. It is a viable and efficient option.

“It offers reliable access to the North American market. With two Class 1 railways, it is a direct gateway into the U.S. Midwest. Montreal is a resource that is not fully utilized in most importer networks.

“The Port is a strong partner that understands its customers’ needs and works well with them.”

To the south, transshipment ports in the Caribbean handle containerized cargo traffic that originates in Asia and in Latin American countries on the Pacific Ocean and then transits the Panama Canal. On the whole, Latin America accounts for 6 per cent of the containerized cargo traffic moving through the Port of Montreal. MSC offers a direct service on this route through its East Canada Express.

Today, 27.7 per cent of the containers moving through the Port are transshipped.

In other regions of the world, traffic with Africa/Oceania represents about 4 per cent of the containerized cargo volumes moving through the Port of Montreal. Hapag-Lloyd and Canada States Africa Line provide direct services on this route.

The remaining 3 per cent of containerized cargo handled at the Port of Montreal is domestic traffic, including general cargo, moving between Montreal and St. John’s and transported by Newfoundland-based Oceanex.

Meanwhile, the Port’s inland container markets have evolved. The number of containers moving to or from Quebec increased by 7.1 per cent in 2014 compared with the previous year. The number of containers moving to or from the rest of Canada, and to or from the U.S. Midwest, increased by 5.4 and 6 per cent, respectively, in 2014.

Today, about 40 per cent of the containerized goods handled at the Port move to or from the Quebec market, followed by Ontario at 26 per cent, and the U.S. Midwest at 17 per cent.