The Port of Montreal continues to set records in virtually every sector of cargo activity. Moreover, it is generating greater economic benefits, creating more and more jobs, and making significant investments in its infrastructures to meet future growth.
The port handled a record 38.9 million tonnes of cargo in 2018, an increase of 2.3% over the previous year. It was a fifth consecutive record-tonnage year. The port moved unprecedented volumes of containerized and liquid bulk cargo, and enjoyed yet another record year in the cruise sector.
“The Port of Montreal is more than ever a hub of global trade,” said Sylvie Vachon, President and CEO of the Montreal Port Authority (MPA). “Our competitive advantages enable us to stand out and pursue our growth. Through Montreal, clients are invited to ‘Ship Different’ thanks to our strategic location, the dedicated direct services provided by the world’s largest shipping lines and the fact that vessels are completely unloaded and reloaded here, our proximity to major distribution and consumer centres, and our ability to prepare rail convoys directly on-dock.”
A record 1.7 million TEUs (20-foot equivalent unit containers) moved through the port in 2018, up 9% over the previous year. “We enjoyed yet another year of strong growth in the container sector,” Ms. Vachon said. “Growing market diversification, the positive impact of the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) on freight traffic, and national economic vitality are among the key elements of our success in this cargo category.”
Tonnage Growth Continues
Tonnage growth is continuing in 2019. Through August, the port had handled 26.9 million tonnes of total cargo and 1.2 million TEUs, increases of 11.6% and 5.5%, respectively, over the same period last year.
The port also enjoyed in 2018 a record-setting year in the liquid bulk sector, where traffic reached 16.4 million tonnes, and in the cruise sector, with the port welcoming 127,061 passengers and crew members.
“All of these factors contribute to making the Port of Montreal a major economic force for the region and the country,” Ms. Vachon said.
Indeed, a new study on the Port of Montreal’s economic benefits, conducted by S&B Data, has reassessed upwards the port’s positive impact. According to the study, the port now generates close to $2.6 billion in Canadian GDP, of which more than 90% is concentrated in Quebec. This represents a 23% increase over the last economic impact assessment conducted in 2014.
Furthermore, the port helps maintain more than 19,000 direct, indirect and induced jobs in the various sectors related to marine and port activities. Growth in the container sector alone has created in the past year 218 new full-time longshore and checker jobs in the Port of Montreal (the Maritime Employers Association employs longshoremen and checkers in the port).
Investment in infrastructure
The MPA is continuing to invest in its infrastructure in order to handle increasing volumes of containerized cargo. In addition to the advancement of its Contrecoeur Port Terminal Expansion Project (see separate story in this section), it has launched a second construction phase at its newest container facility – Viau Terminal – to boost handling capacity.
Viau Terminal, operated by Logistec Corporation’s Termont Montreal Inc., handles about 350,000 containers annually. This second and final phase will add 250,000 TEUs to the terminal’s current capacity, increasing it to 600,000 TEUs.
The project will enable the Port of Montreal to reach its maximum handling capacity of 2.1 million TEUs on the Island of Montreal. The MPA, Termont Montreal and the federal government are investing in the project.
The project works will run to December 2020 and will mainly include the installation of piles, railway works, dynamic soil compaction, underground infrastructure works, the laying of foundation, and paving. Throughout the works, in accordance with the commitment made by the MPA and Termont Montreal during public consultations on the project held in 2015, mitigation measures will be implemented to minimize inconvenience to neighbouring communities. For example, dust suppressants will be applied to prevent or reduce the spread of dust, and motorized equipment will be fitted with high-performance mufflers.
When fully operational, Viau Terminal will generate 2,500 direct and indirect jobs, as well as $340 million in economic benefits. The terminal uses new technologies and will continue to do so, for example by electrifying certain components and using broadband reversing alarms on equipment to minimize the noise impacts of handling activities.
The infrastructure project will enable the world’s second largest shipping line, MSC, a longstanding partner of both Termont Montreal and the port, to develop and increase its services through Montreal.
“The increase in terminal capacity is coming at the right time for us,” said Sokat Shaikh, President and CEO of MSC Canada. “(This project) ensures the future growth of our services in Montreal. MSC has grown significantly, by more than 10% a year for the past five years. This additional capacity at Viau Terminal will support such growth over the next two years. Then we will have to move on to the next step.”
Termont Montreal President Madeleine Paquin said: “The Port of Montreal is a hub and anchors our network. As MSC’s strategic partners, we are delighted to work with the Port of Montreal and support its expansion. This project reaffirms our commitment to Montreal and our determination to be efficient and reliable as a strategic gateway for Canadian trade. We are very pleased to have the support of the Government of Canada to continue to advance Montreal’s development. Since the signing of CETA, exporters and importers are already making the most of the new market access. The future is bright for Montreal.”
“Collaboration is at the heart of our business processes, as demonstrated by this project,” Ms. Vachon said. “We are pleased to be able to complete the Viau Terminal project, a sign of the steady growth of the container market in Montreal, and to be able to count on the commitment of our valued partners who have been involved in this project from the start, the Government of Canada and Logistec.”
The completion of Viau Terminal will end all possible development of the port’s container-handling spaces on the Island of Montreal.
“With the completion of Viau Terminal and the major terminal project at Contrecoeur well underway, the Port of Montreal is actively working to accommodate the growth of the container market for years to come,” Ms. Vachon said. “By doing so, it is strengthening its strategic role at the heart of Montreal’s supply chain and continuing to act as an engine for economic development and job creation, benefiting Greater Montreal, Quebec and Canada.”
Good news for bulk cargo
The bulk cargo sector continues to play a dominant role in the Port of Montreal’s growth. In fact, the liquid bulk category recorded the most significant traffic increase in 2018, up 11.7% over the previous year. Enbridge’s Line 9B reversal was the main reason for the increase, followed by greater volumes of imported processed products.
In this cargo sector, Montreal International Fuel Facilities Corporation (MIFFC) is planning to develop a $150-million airport jet fuel terminal on MPA-owned land. The Bureau d’audiences publiques sur l’environnement (Quebec’s office for public hearings on the environment) gave its go-ahead for the project in July.
Under the project, jet fuel will arrive directly at the port by ship and be moved into storage tanks for onward supply to the three largest airports in Eastern Canada, including Montreal-Trudeau International Airport. When completed, the project will help reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 15% by reducing transportation of fuel by train and truck between Quebec City and Montreal.
MIFFC is currently finalizing the project’s preliminary engineering and is beginning the process of obtaining permits, certifications and other approvals required by regulatory authorities.
Based on projected schedules, construction work would begin next spring and take approximately three years to complete.
Meanwhile, cargo volumes are rebounding nicely in the dry bulk cargo category in 2019 following a decrease in traffic last year, when the port handled 8 million tonnes of cargo in this sector. The port already had handled 6.1 million tonnes of dry bulk traffic through August, up 64% over the same period last year, with grain and ore volumes picking up significantly.