By Brian Dunn

According to CargoM, the Logistics and Transportation Cluster of Metropolitan Montreal, last year was the worst in its eight -year history. This year may even be tougher, said CargoM Executive Director Mathieu Charbonneau. “We had a second (longshoremen) strike, the blockage of the Suez Canal and a container shortage. There is also a severe shortage of workers.”

On the plus side, a lot of layoffs and closures have occurred in other clusters, but CargoM has mostly bucked that trend which shows the resiliency of the industry, noted Mr. Charbonneau. CargoM also has a record 65 members, which indicates the cluster remains strong, he added. The 65 members donated a combined 1,700 hours of volunteer work, only 100 hours less than the previous year.

The rollout of CargO2 AI to optimize the identification of critical cargo arriving in containers at the port to ensure the rapid distribution of essential goods is starting to pay off. Some 5,000 critical containers were pinpointed using CargO2 this year. “The main critical cargo was medical supplies to fight COVID-19. We’re hoping to use it in other areas like the agri-food sector,” said Mr. Charbonneau.

The cluster underwent some internal changes, with the appointment of Madeleine Paquin, President and CEO of Logistec Corp, as Chairman of CargoM, replacing Sylvie Vachon who retired. Martin Imbleau, who replaced Mme. Vachon as the head of Montreal Port Authority, joined the CargoM Board.

The cluster, in collaboration with Propulsion Quebec, hopes to launch Cité de la Mobilité sustainable, to promote more movement of people and transportation through electrification. It is launching a solicitation of interest from stakeholders in the transport and logistics ecosystem in order to collect proposals for innovative projects that will contribute to the transformation of the sector. “We’re hoping to have more deliveries done by electric trucks, especially during off-peak hours,” said Mr. Charbonneau.

Greater Montreal’s designation as a Foreign Trade Zone (FTZ) to attract importers and exporters was enhanced with the addition of the south shore communities of Longueuil, Contrecoeur and Sorel. Under the FTZ, the purchase or import of raw materials or finished products are exempt from custom duties and taxes until they are re-exported. On Oct. 7,  Foreign Trade Zone Vancouver Island and CargoM  organized the first meeting of all free zone centres in Canada as well as all organizations working to promote international trade to Canadian companies.

Under its “Lean and Green” program, CargoM signed two agreements with Groupe Robert and Logistec to conduct pilot projects. The program’s objective is to help participants reduce their CO2 emissions in the field of logistics and transportation over five years.

CargoM organizes visits to companies that offer innovative solutions in the logistics chain. This year, a virtual visit was organized to Wiptec, a 3PL (pick, pack and ship) fulfillment warehousing and distribution services company that recently opened a 1.7 million sq ft distribution centre in Longueuil that Mr. Charbonneau calls the “Amazon of Quebec.”

Speaking of large spaces, CargoM identifies indoor and outdoor storage spaces available in the greater Montreal area and its surroundings. To date, it has inventoried more than three million square feet of indoor space and nearly 16.4 million sq ft of outdoor space in Greater Montreal and elsewhere.

This year’s edition of Career Day has both a physical and virtual option. The physical edition takes place at the Palais des congrès de Montréal, Oct 27-28, while the online fair runs between Nov 3-12, with the option to connect with recruiters on the first two days. CargoM will have its own pavilion at the Palais, entirely dedicated to trades and training in the transport and logistics sector.

CargoM is an enthusiastic supporter of Quebec’s new maritime vision, Avantage Saint-Laurent, announced in June. The new strategy, to be completed by 2024-2025, has three main components and a total budget of $926.9 million. The largest tranche, $394.3 million, will be used to provide maritime communities with promising and sustainable development opportunities. Another $300 million will be used to modernize port infrastructures and the final $232.6 million is earmarked for efficient navigation that respects the river’s ecosystem. “Beyond the direct benefits of Avantage Saint-Laurent to our shipping community, the more than 6,000 businesses operating in logistics and freight transport in the metropolitan area will also benefit from this new vision and the many initiatives that will result from it,” said Mr. Charbonneau after the announcement.

Every two or three years, CargoM conducts a survey to find out how its members feel about the cluster and its activities. The survey is normally conducted in-house. However, due to its increasing membership and partners, it has hired TACT to conduct this year’s survey with results expected by the end of October or November.

Looking ahead, CargoM has set a number of priorities its wants to focus on. One of the main ones is fluidity to improve access and fluidity of truck transportation in Greater Montreal. “The La Fontaine Tunnel is being repaired which will have a major impact on the trucking industry,” Mr. Charbonneau noted. “And there are improvements being made to rue Notre Dame (the main port entrance).” The Ministry of Transport and the City of Montreal will be making a presentation on the progress of the repair work being done on the tunnel. The event will be coordinated by CargoM in collaboration with the Quebec Trucking Association.

Electronic data will also be getting a lot of attention from CargoM, which won a Third Place Award from the American Association of Port Authorities for its CargO2 AI distribution project in partnership with the Port of Montreal, developed by Ivado Labs and funded by Scale AI, Canada’s AI supercluster.

A third priority is green mobility where a lot of investments are being made, particularly in electrically-powered freight transportation, according to Mr. Charbonneau.