The Port of Montreal is celebrating in 2017 a supply chain milestone that has defined its growth and success: the 50th anniversary of the arrival of the first containers in the port.

The Port of Montreal handled its very first container in 1967. Nearly 35 million containers have transited through the port since then.

The Montreal Port Authority (MPA) and its clients marked the anniversary at the MPA’s annual client reception held in April.

The introduction of year-round navigation on the St. Lawrence River in 1964 and the worldwide growth of container shipping in the 1960s helped make possible the start of container handling in Montreal. Manchester Liners Ltd. unloaded the very first containers in Montreal; the port handled 11,374 TEUs (20-foot equivalent units) in 1967.

On November 15, 1968, Manchester Liners and the port inaugurated Canada’s first container terminal – Manchester Terminal – and the shipping line launched the first regular weekly container transport service between Manchester, United Kingdom, and Montreal.

From that moment on, container traffic through the port continued to increase. In response to demand, Cast and Racine terminals, now operated by Montreal Gateway Terminals Partnership, were built in 1972 and 1978, followed by Maisonneuve Terminal, operated by Termont Montreal Inc., in 1987.

Today, the Port of Montreal is the only container port on the St. Lawrence River and the largest container port in Eastern Canada. Nine regular services operated by five global leaders in container shipping – CMA CGM, Hapag-Lloyd, Maersk, Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC) and OOCL (which acquired Manchester Liners in 1980) – connect Montreal to some 140 countries around the world. Furthermore, Oceanex operates a container shipping service linking Montreal and St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador. It calls at Bickerdike Terminal, operated by Empire Stevedoring Co. Ltd.

In 2016, the port handled 13.1 million tonnes of containerized cargo traffic that moved in 1.45 million TEUs.

To accommodate growth in the container market, the port inaugurated the new Viau Terminal, operated by Termont Montreal, last November, and it is currently working on a project for a new container terminal at Contrecoeur.

“In a year when we are celebrating the 375th anniversary of Montreal and the 150th anniversary of Confederation, the port is pleased to mark the 50 years of containerization that has forged its history. Containers are literally in our DNA at the Port of Montreal. It’s what sets us apart and it’s our strength, right on par with the great diversity of cargo that we handle. Like a magnet, the Port of Montreal attracts companies and services that benefit from its presence, and that’s why the logistics industry is so important in Greater Montreal. We owe our success to all the workers at the port, the shipping lines, the supply chain stakeholders and all levels of government that supported us over all those years.”

Sylvie Vachon, President and CEO, MPA

“Montreal is part of our developments in Canada. As an illustration, we have begun to offer to our customers a new direct service to the Mediterranean with extensive and fast connection to West Africa and the Middle East. Other major projects involving Montreal are presently under study. Congratulations to the Port of Montreal on this special anniversary.”

Remi Samad, General Manager, CMA CGM Canada

“Our family company started its operations at Bickerdike Pier in 1931. Over the years, we have seen numerous improvements in the maritime business, among which the very first containers in Montreal. Despite the fact that we now operate in nine major ports across North America, for us, it all started here at the Port of Montreal over 85 years ago, and we are always proud to mark the event.”

Andrew Chodos, President and CEO, Empire Stevedoring

“There is a very special relationship between the Port of Montreal, Hapag-Lloyd and its home base, the Port of Hamburg. Back in the late 19th century, Hapag’s vessels were already sailing between Germany and Canada, carrying goods and people. Nowadays, we operate a weekly container carrier ship service to the city.”

Wolfgang Schoch, Managing Director, Hapag-Lloyd Canada

“Maersk Line is proud of our long-term relationship with the Port of Montreal, and we compliment you on the 50th anniversary of the first container arriving in the city. We are happy to be a partner with the port in connecting Canada to the world.”

Jack Mahoney, President, Maersk Line in Canada

“MGT is owned by a local investor consortium comprising Axium Infrastructure, the Desjardins Group, Manulife, Industrial Alliance and the FTQ Solidarity Fund. It operates two of the four international container terminals at the Port of Montreal. The Port of Montreal’s oldest international container terminal still operating, Cast, is owned by the consortium and has been in operation since 1972. The consortium also owns Racine Terminal, which has been in operation since 1978. Annually, both terminals handle hundreds of thousands of containers, reliably supplying businesses and industries throughout the country.”

Michael Fratianni, CEO, Montreal Gateway Terminals

“Congratulations to the Port of Montreal on 50 years of container service. MSC’s partnership with the Port of Montreal has grown over the years, through multiple services to and from over 350 ports around the world. This commitment is further displayed through our investment in terminal operations at the Port of Montreal. The strength of our partnership will ensure that our customers and our economy will thrive for many years to come.”

Sokat Shaikh, President and CEO, MSC Canada

“Each week, Oceanex ships connect the ports of Montreal and St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador. Automobiles, trailers, and containers filled with a wide range of products and commodities, coming from origins throughout North America and around the world, are consolidated at the Port of Montreal and transported to Newfoundland, providing an essential, reliable and efficient supply to the province’s market.”

Captain Sid Hynes, Executive Chairman, Oceanex

“This anniversary has a very special meaning to our history at OOCL when the first semi-container vessel was deployed to Montreal in 1967. This marked the beginning of our support and enduring relationship with the Port of Montreal and the community, setting the foundation of OOCL’s Montreal Gateway services that we continue to operate today in providing competitive weekly services connecting Montreal to markets in North Europe as well as those in Asia through our Eurobridge network. We are very honoured to be one of Montreal’s vital links to world trade.”

Grace Liang, President, OOCL Canada

“Termont has been operating Maisonneuve Terminal since 1988. In November 2016, we also inaugurated the last of the port’s four international container terminals, Viau Terminal. Every week, our company is proud to ensure the efficient and safe handling of containers brought here by ships calling at the port from the four corners of the world.”

Madeleine Paquin, Board Chairperson, Termont