The Port of Montreal continues to boost its international reach and visibility with the arrival of new shipping lines, its market diversification efforts and its partnerships around the world.

Seven of the largest international container shipping lines – CMA CGM, COSCO Shipping Lines, Hamburg Süd, Hapag-Lloyd, Maersk, MSC and OOCL – now serve the port. The most recent addition to the port lineup, COSCO Shipping, inaugurated in April its weekly transatlantic service connecting Montreal with the northern European ports of Antwerp, Bremerhaven, Le Havre and Liverpool.

“The arrival of COSCO Shipping Lines reaffirms the Port of Montreal’s place as the preferred gateway for freight transport between Europe and North America’s industrial heartland,” said Sylvie Vachon, President and CEO of the Montreal Port Authority (MPA).

COSCO Shipping’s commitment to the port comes on the heels of two significant announcements in 2018. Maersk expanded its presence in the port by launching an exclusive transatlantic service connecting Montreal to the Mediterranean ports of Algeciras and Valencia in Spain, Fos-sur-Mer in France, and La Spezia and Salerno in Italy, and Hamburg Süd joined the list of international container carriers serving the port with a weekly service linking Montreal to those same Mediterranean ports.

“The presence of these seven renowned shipping lines in Montreal attests to our port’s international appeal,” Ms. Vachon said. “The port can now count on 11 regular dedicated services that connect Montreal to five continents.”

The Port of Montreal is strategically located on the shortest direct route between ports in Europe and the Mediterranean and the North American heartland. It is the closest international container port to major distribution centres and consumer markets in Canada and the U.S. Midwest and Northeast, providing importers and exporters with access to 110 million consumers in less than two days through its excellent rail and road connections.

Market Diversification

Diversification of markets and diversification of cargo handled are key elements of the port’s success in the containerized cargo sector. Asia now accounts for 25% of the Port of Montreal’s container market, up from only 14% in 2013, and is by far the fastest growing market in this cargo sector. Indeed, container traffic to and from Asia increased by 8.3% in 2018 compared with the previous year, highlighted by a strong increase in imports.

Within Asia, India is showing particularly strong growth, and it now accounts for more than 5% of the port’s container market. It was virtually non-existent as a market for the port just a few years ago.

As part of a trade mission to India in February 2018, the MPA signed a cooperative agreement with Adani Ports, a leading operator of ports in India, including Mundra Port, located north of Mumbai, to develop cooperation in marketing and business development and share information on marine operations and industry best practices.

Alternative Solutions

Shipping lines serving the port are providing competitive, alternative solutions connecting Asia and the North American heartland via the Suez and Panama canals and transshipment ports in North Europe, the Mediterranean and the Caribbean. Indeed, shippers in Quebec and Ontario are now choosing these services to move more of their Asian cargo.

Growth of 15% in Africa, 9% in Latin America and 3% in the Middle East also contributed to the port’s strong results in the container sector in 2018.

Montreal is also doing extremely well in its traditional markets. Europe recorded a 6.6% increase in traffic (all types of cargo combined) in 2018 due to the positive impact of the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) between Canada and the European Union that entered into force in September 2017.

“With more than 55% of our volumes connected to Europe, CETA will continue to be a significant engine of growth for years to come,” Ms. Vachon said.

Montreal, Antwerp Renew Agreement

With this in mind, the port authorities of Montreal and Antwerp, who have enjoyed a close partnership for six years now, have renewed their cooperation agreement for 10 years. The accord builds on four areas of cooperation: inter-port governance; trade; innovation; and sustainable development and energy transition.

As the gateway of choice for European markets and a major transshipment port, the Port of Antwerp is the Port of Montreal’s largest trading partner. In total, 15% of the containerized tonnages moving through the Port of Montreal come from or go to the Port of Antwerp.

A segment of the container market that is booming through the Port of Montreal is that of refrigerated containers. The number of reefers moving through the port has increased by 200% in the past five years, and by 115% in 2018 alone.

The continued explosion of the global containerized refrigerated container shipping market, spurred by changes in consumption habits, led Port of Montreal carrier Hapag-Lloyd to place a record order for refrigerated containers in July. The shipping line will add 13,240 refrigerated containers, increasing its reefer container fleet to more than 100,000 units.

On the international scene, the MPA has representatives in the United States, Europe and Asia to develop new business. They promote the port to increase its visibility on a global scale, meet with major importers and exporters around the world on a regular basis, and pursue growth opportunities.