By Brian Dunn

Looking to connect with its neighbours and give them a first-hand look at its facilities, Port of Montreal recently held its fourth annual Port in the City Day.

The event attracted over 2,000 Montrealers who were given a bird’s eye view of port facilities on a complementary cruise offered by the Port aboard the Cavalier Maxim, owned by Croisières AML, its partner for Port in the City Day.

With senior managers from the Port serving as tour guides, five departures took place throughout the day, for a one-hour cruise from King Edward Pier in the Old Port to the east end of the city. Passengers discovered port infrastructures spread over 26 kilometres.

“This very popular event with Montrealers shows Port of Montreal’s importance at the heart of its community and reflects our commitment to fully assume our role as an active and responsible corporate citizen,” said Sylvie Vachon, President and CEO of Montreal Port Authority.

This year, to further enhance its image as a good corporate citizen, the Port launched a special invitation to port neighbours, namely the citizens of the boroughs of Ville-Marie, Mercier-Hochelaga-Maisonneuve, Rivière-des-Prairies-Pointe-aux-Trembles and Montreal East, who reside close to port territory. All those who could not get tickets will have another chance next year. “The event fits in with our top priority of maintaining a dialogue with our neighbours,” explained Sophie Roux, Director of Communications for the Port of Montreal. “It gives them a better understanding of what we do and why we need all that space.”

To decide who to invite on the cruises, the port looked along its 26 km footprint and determined there were about 16,000 households that were affected by the port’s activities. Each household received a postcard invitation to one of the five cruises. Those who signed up were also encouraged to register their names online in case the Port needed to contact them on short notice or to invite them to exclusive activities.

The five cruises could handle a total of 3,700 passengers. Only some 2,000 showed up, because of inclement weather, suggested Ms. Roux. “The weather hasn’t been on our side for the past two years,” she added. “But the feedback we got when they finished the cruise was very positive. They had stars in their eyes, because they didn’t realize the importance of the port and why we need all that land for the railway system and all the containers and intermodal network.”

Last year was a record for the port which handled 28.2 million tonnes of cargo and there’s no reason to believe 2014 won’t be better, said Ms. Roux. In addition, the Port invested $55 million in infrastructure in 2013 to increase container capacity by 13 per cent. “We’re preparing for an increase in cargo traffic with the free trade agreement with Europe, as Montreal is a natural gateway to the rest of North America. Contrecoeur (40 km downstream, where the port owns 4 km of waterfront) becomes even more relevant because of the FTA with Europe. We are currently in the fourth year of a 10-year plan to develop the site.”

The port’s cruise business is also booming, welcoming almost 70,000 passengers and crew last year, double the figure from three years ago, Ms. Roux pointed out. “A new cruise terminal is a project we’d like to complete if we get the necessary government funding. It becomes even more important as Montreal approaches its 375th Anniversary in 2017.”