The MEA: an indispensable player at the Port of Montreal

The Maritime Employers Association (MEA) is made up of about 40 companies involved in the maritime shipping sector (ship owners, operators and agents of vessels, stevedoring contractors and terminal operators). It acts on behalf of its members to negotiate and manage collective agreements for more than 1,200 active longshoremen and checkers at the Port of Montreal. On a daily basis, it also recruits, trains and dispatches workers according to the provisions contained in the current collective agreements, and plays an advisory role regarding occupational health and safety issues with terminal operators.

The Montreal Harbour Training Centre

Its training centre offers about 30 training programs developed by its staff and by industry experts. “Our role at the MHTC is to promote the acquisition and improvement of the workforce’s know-how and people skills for the proper functioning of terminal port operations. We have created training programs that unite classroom courses, practice on simulators and training on circuits. In 2016, we offered more than 25,000 hours of training to our employees,” said Sébastien Lambert, Director of the Training and Health and Safety Department.

A State-of-the-Art Simulator

Launched in 1996, the MHTC prepares a workforce with access to the latest technologies: “Today, our crane simulator is stunningly realistic, both from a technical and a visual point of view. It lets us evaluate an individual’s aptitudes even before he begins training on real equipment,” Mr. Lambert said. In order to ensure that the simulation accurately reflects reality, specialists spent several days on the port terminals thoroughly testing and analyzing the machinery’s behaviour and even the smallest vagaries, which they then recreated. Further to the simulation on several types of cranes, trainers use the lift, reach stacker and top handler simulators. At terms, the Centre would like to integrate all of the port’s active machinery to the simulator.

Supervised Learning

Over the years, the training process has greatly evolved. Not so long ago, workers did not receive much training for manual jobs and had to learn by observing an experienced employee to whom they were paired. Nowadays, hired candidates are trained in a new hangar that reproduces the environment of the terminals on which they will load and unload ships. Before starting, they have a guided visit of the workplaces and get basic health and safety training. “More formal teaching is given by sector professionals. Tighter supervision has positive effects on performance and we have seen a significant decrease in incident risks. We want to ensure that employees have the required skills and that they use correct methods,” Mr. Lambert said.

In the past year, the MHTC offers a work team management program to walking bosses and superintendents. “We are faced with generational change that we need to learn to manage in order to create an environment that enables us to obtain good results.”

Pushing Further

In the upcoming years, the MHTC plans to broaden its activities and service offer: “With the expertise we have developed, we can now act as consultants, adapt or even create custom programs according to each of the companies’ specific requirements. The Centre wishes to continue its development by innovating in training and work methods, while putting an emphasis on staff mobilization. In the longer term, the entire team will strive to implement a corporate culture that promotes continuous education. We want to spread this idea because we are sure that the results we will get will be just as good for our workers as for our members. Efficiency comes through skills improvement and that rarely happens without acquiring knowledge. One must never stop learning,” said Stéphane Morency, President and CEO of the MEA.