Momentum is building to further position the Greater Montreal region as a first-class trade logistics hub within the world’s largest supply chains.
The region already is well regarded as a freight transport hub thanks to its strategic location on the doorstep of North America’s industrial heartland, providing access to 40 million consumers within one trucking day and 70 million consumers within two rail days. It boasts a high concentration of maritime, road, rail and air transport companies, an internationally renowned port that moves some 32 million tonnes of highly diversified cargo annually, intermodal connections to and from North American markets, and well-developed expertise and infrastructure within the logistics and freight transport sector.
Greater Montreal benefits from a “multimodal model” that positions it well as a logistics hub, said Mathieu Charbonneau, Executive Director of Cargo Montreal (CargoM), the Logistics and Transportation Metropolitan Cluster of Montreal.
“Montreal is a gateway for goods originating in Europe and the Mediterranean. It also enjoys multimodal proximity to industrial production centres in the U.S. Midwest, thereby facilitating the import and export of goods,” Mr. Charbonneau said.
“For reasons related to its geographic location on the St. Lawrence River as well as its history, Montreal has established itself as the maritime gateway to the heart of the continent and international trade hub for northeastern North America, first as Canada’s industrial capital, through triangular transatlantic trade with the United Kingdom and the United States, and then with the rest of the world in the context of the globalization of the economy,” said Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre.
Among the benefits that Greater Montreal offers is that it is home to major global and Canadian players in the logistics and transportation industry. The presence of an expert and competitive labour force is another important factor. In the Greater Montreal region, the logistics and freight transport industry represents 123,000 direct and skilled jobs and 6,300 facilities that handle 142 million tonnes of goods via all types of transportation each year for a global added value of $4.3 billion.
Moreover, many universities and colleges in the region offer a wide range of training and courses in transportation and logistics.
The creation of CargoM in its own right and the participation of so many players in the logistics and freight transport sector within in the organization is another important factor in the emergence of Montreal as a logistics hub.
The Port of Montreal was a driving force behind the launch of CargoM in 2012. Four years later, the organization has close to 50 members in the areas of maritime transport and terminals; rail transport; road transport and third-party logistics; administrations and shared infrastructures; committees and associations; and educational and research institutions. Together, they are promoting the region as a hub, working around common goals and taking concerted action to increase competitiveness and growth.
CargoM is initiating developmental projects that promote Montreal as a logistics and freight transport hub and introducing best practices and leading-edge technologies. Its six working groups are examining:
• Logistics and transport development opportunities;
• Communications and outreach;
• Road access and fluidity in road transport;
• Best practices and technology;
• Regulations; and
• Human resources/workforce.
“We are working with the maritime and logistics community within CargoM to exam ways to improve and diversify,” said Sylvie Vachon, President and CEO of the Montreal Port Authority. “This work will directly benefit users and partners of our logistics chain.”
Claude Comtois, a professor at the University of Montreal and a member of the Interuniversity Research Centre on Enterprise Networks, Logistics and Transportation, encourages further investments in telecommunications systems and sophisticated software and better data analysis and management of the road network in order to develop “a logistics hub with the highest rate of efficiency,” and he calls for greater synergy among all players in order to “develop an intelligent city and build a smart port into the 21st century.”
In particular, Mr. Comtois said the scope of logistics activity in the Greater Montreal region should increase in the coming years with the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) between Canada and the European Union.
Quebec Maritime Strategy
Mr. Charbonneau said Quebec’s new Maritime Strategy, announced by the provincial government in June 2015, will play an important role in for all partners in Greater Montreal’s logistics chain. The initial action plan under the Maritime Strategy hinges on a financial framework of more than $1.5 billion unveiled in March 2015. It also calls for the development of the Greater Montreal region as one of the major North American trade logistics hubs for goods handling.
Ms. Vachon said the Maritime Strategy is a “turning point” for the industry. “This strategy will strengthen the collaborative efforts already underway between marine industry and supply chain players to develop concrete projects that generate economic benefits through the best environmental and social practices,” she said.
Jean D’Amour, Quebec’s Minister for Transport and the Implementation of the Maritime Strategy, told some 300 people from all sectors of the logistics and freight transportation industry at a CargoM networking event last September that the strategy recognizes the mission-critical role of the logistics and transportation sector in the Quebec economy, as well as Greater Montreal’s importance as a hub.
The establishment of logistics hubs is one of the 10 strategic priorities set out in the Quebec Maritime Strategy.
It seeks to position Quebec as a gateway to major markets in northeastern North America. The focus will be on logistics hubs and value-added distribution centres that will ship and receive ocean cargo for distribution across northeastern North America through rail, road and maritime transport.
Logistics hubs will be created in Vaudreuil-Soulanges, located west of Montreal, in Contrecoeur, situated about 40 kilometres east of Montreal and where the Port of Montreal is planning a future container terminal, and in an economic development corridor along Highway 30 in the Montérégie region.
Meanwhile, the Port of Montreal is collaborating on a City of Montreal and CargoM project to develop the l’Assomption Sud hub within the logistics and transportation cluster.
The project would establish and promote along the future extension of l’Assomption Blvd. a logistics sector linked to the Port of Montreal. “Establishing businesses in this sector is a project that would grow our logistics chain, leading to significant spinoffs for the city,” Ms. Vachon said.
“The City of Montreal and the Metropolitan Montreal Community have been working to support the development of this strategic industrial cluster and the modernization of strategic transport infrastructures,” Mr. Coderre said. “Within the framework of the Government of Quebec’s Maritime Strategy and Quebec Transport Ministry and Government of Canada infrastructure development projects, the City of Montreal is working to strengthen the competitive position of the logistics cluster.”
Port Industrial Areas
Another strategic priority of the Maritime Strategy is the development of industrial zones in ports. The provincial government is making a $300-million investment in the development of industrial port areas throughout the province.
“We believe in the merits of the concept of industrial port areas, and we are very pleased with these major investments,” Ms. Vachon said. “Montreal is a natural, ideally suited site to implement such a concept. Like the Port of Montreal, ports are real engines for attracting business and there will definitely be no shortage of interest in developing business in this stimulating context.”
The MPA plans to fully participate in this project, alongside its many partners, such as CargoM, the municipalities and the Government of Quebec.
“The government intends to support the development of industrial zones close to port services and rail and highway infrastructure,” Mr. D’Amour said. “This proximity represents a significant comparative advantage for companies establishing operations in these zones, because they will gain easy access to inputs and this will accelerate the shipping of merchandise to North American and international markets.”