By Brent Frederick

Montreal Gateway Terminals (MGT) concluded 2011 by hosting an industry-wide celebration of the 30th anniversary of the St. Lawrence Coordinated Service (SLCS), a container service operated jointly by shipping lines OOCL and Hapag-Lloyd, allowing for their vessels to share space when plying the trade routes of North America and North Europe with calls to the Montreal Gateway Terminals at the Port of Montreal.

An agreement remarkable for its progressive approach to shipping collaboration, its longevity, and its positive business impact on the region, the SLCS is a testament to the innovative and collaborative business practices of MGT and its partners.

Looking at 2012 and beyond, this penchant for fuelling progress through innovation will continue to drive MGT’s successful container-handling operations long into the future.

Held in large part by Morgan Stanley’s infrastructure investment group (80-per-cent shareholders), MGT boasts a full array of state-of-the-art container-handling equipment and a strategic geographic location on the doorstep of North America’s industrial heartland. Canadian Pacific and Canadian National have on-dock rail access to MGT terminals, which are adjacent to a network of major highways. Shippers have direct access to inland transportation services to and from major North American markets including Quebec, Ontario and Western Canada and the U.S. Midwest and Northeast.

In addition to SLCS operators OOCL and Hapag-Lloyd, MGT’s other container carrier clients include Maersk, Hanjin Shipping, CMA CGM, APL and Mediterranean Shipping Company. The terminal operator also handles break-bulk cargo for Canada States Africa Line, and offers ancillary services such as container stuffing, de-stuffing, and flat rack container services.

Investing in innovation

According to MGT, its strategy for continued innovation is largely reliant on a solid, technology-enhanced terminal management system. In keeping with this philosophy, MGT signed an agreement in December of 2011 with Navis, a California-based firm that provides terminal operating solutions to progressive companies around the world. According to the agreement, Navis will enhance MGT’s in-house terminal management system with its SPARCS N4 terminal operating system.

“N4 is a fully integrated database system that will help us manage our operations even more efficiently, and will position us to take advantage of other technological advances in the future,” said Kevin Doherty, MGT’s chief executive officer. “The investments that MGT is making in this area are a top priority for the company,” added Frédéric Provost, MGT’s general manager of risk management.

Sustainable development

“The N4 system simply makes you more competitive. It improves security, safety, and productivity, while minimizing your carbon footprint. This is because minimizing any unproductive moves reduces CO2 emissions, making MGT an even greener operation,” Mr. Doherty added.

MGT’s commitment to being an industry leader in all areas of sustainable development is driven from the top, with the full support of the board of directors and senior management.

MGT is a major player in Green Marine, a joint Canada-U.S. initiative aimed at implementing a marine industry environmental program throughout North America. The voluntary program has rapidly gained a reputation for credibility and transparency, and for challenging participant companies to improve their environmental performance beyond regulatory compliance.

MGT was also the first privately held container terminal operator to obtain ISO 14001 environmental management certification.

Today, MGT is pursuing additional measures to further minimize its footprint by installing 280 new electrical reefer plugs that will allow temperature-controlled containers to run on hydroelectric-generated energy rather than diesel-generated energy. This will bring to 580 the total number of hydroelectric plugs at MGT facilities.

“These measures will contribute greatly to the reduction of our carbon footprint. By converting to electrical reefer plugs MGT will reduce CO2 emissions, reduce noise levels and operate its reefer stations more efficiently,” Mr. Doherty said.

Safety and security

Being green is of the utmost importance to MGT, and is matched only by its commitment to further improving safety and security measures.

On the security front, MGT is International Ship and Port Facility Security (ISPS) code certified. MGT has a risk management department and a strong team of trained security staff that works closely with government agencies to ensure that its facilities are secure. In 2012, MGT will make additional investments in upgrading and deploying state-of-the-art camera surveillance technologies.

Additionally, MGT’s health and safety group works with stakeholders to further reduce the risks of work-related accidents. “We are proud of our past achievements but we will only be satisfied once we hit the zero-accident threshold. It is an absolute priority for us,” Mr. Provost said.

Commitment to collaboration

Greater collaboration among all of the players in the supply chain will be paramount moving forward. “To remain competitive, we have to focus on service,” Mr. Doherty said. “All the players along the supply chain need to work in a much more collaborative fashion to ensure that the cargo continues to transit through Montreal for the markets that have been traditionally served by this gateway.

“We all need to work together. That includes everyone along the supply chain – labour, terminal operators, the shipping lines, the railways, government agencies. We all have to make this gateway as fluid as possible. We need to ensure that this is the gateway of choice, that it is congestion free, secure and safe, and that we’ll take care of shippers’ business. Working collaboratively is and will continue to be our differentiator,” Mr. Doherty said.

Putting these words into action, MGT and CN signed a level-of-service agreement last year, and the terminal operator has had service standards in place with CP for years.

According to Mr. Doherty, MGT has enjoyed strong cooperation and collaboration with its SLCS partners and its other clients, and looks forward to maintaining these strong relationships for a long time to come.