The Port of Montreal is Greater Montreal’s freight transportation hub and a key link in international supply chains. It handles some 32 million tonnes of highly diversified traffic – containerized and non-containerized cargo, liquid bulk and dry bulk – and welcomes more than 90,000 cruise guests each year. It is the largest container port in Eastern Canada and the second largest in the country.
Located some 1,600 kilometres inland from the Atlantic Ocean, the Port of Montreal is at the centre of a fully integrated rail, road and pipeline network. Ships, trains and trucks converge at a single location, minimizing cargo transit times. The ability to move goods farther inland by vessel provides shippers with advantages that are both economical and environmental.
“The Port of Montreal is an essential link in the supply chains of the major consumer markets and distribution centres of Eastern Canada and the U.S. Midwest and Northeast,” said Sylvie Vachon, President and CEO of the Montreal Port Authority (MPA).
“The Port of Montreal is certainly the cornerstone of the major Montreal intermodal transport and logistics infrastructures that link the Greater Montreal region to the entire world,” said Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre. “The goods that move through it benefit from continental railway networks and the huge rail yards of Canadian National and Canadian Pacific in western Montreal that are like inland ports, as well as the presence of highway networks. Together, these infrastructures constitute a huge and highly efficient integrated logistics zone.
“Goods, and in particular containerized goods, that move through the Port of Montreal benefit, therefore, from complete ship-rail-road intermodality. This positions the Port of Montreal very favourably as one of the most important container transshipment ports in northeastern North America,” Mr. Coderre said.
“The Port of Montreal is the main contributor to the logistics chain,” said Mathieu Charbonneau, Executive Director of Cargo Montreal (CargoM), the Logistics and Transportation Metropolitan Cluster of Montreal. “It has been at the heart of this chain since its creation. It is because of the Port of Montreal that CN and CP built their rail yards in such close proximity, and that companies specializing in marine transport and logistics have set up and developed a specific expertise for which Montreal has become renowned.”
“The Port of Montreal is a strong engine,” said Claude Comtois, a professor at the University of Montreal and a member of the Interuniversity Research Centre on Enterprise Networks, Logistics and Transportation. “It is a strategic port to meet local demand and to serve Eastern Ontario and the U.S. Midwest. It benefits from a strategic geographic location and an intermodal system with direct links to rail.”
Nicole Trépanier, President of the St. Lawrence Economic Development Council (SODES), said the Port of Montreal plays an essential role in the St. Lawrence-Great Lakes trade corridor as a transshipment hub for goods transportation.
“The Port of Montreal is the natural gateway for trade between North America and Europe thanks to its efficient intermodal links,” Ms. Trépanier said. “Indeed, 98 percent of importers and exporters in Quebec and 93 percent in Ontario choose the Port of Montreal to reach European markets. It is important that it maintains its competitive position.”
Trading with the World
Not only is the Port of Montreal on the shortest direct route from Europe and the Mediterranean to North America’s industrial heartland, it is connected to all continents and more than 140 countries around the world thanks to transshipment services that its shipping lines provide. (For further information, please see story “Port Taps into New Markets, Offers New Services” in this Port Feature.)
Montreal is a one-stop port, with no intermediate calls. Ships are fully unloaded and loaded in the Port. “Montreal is a cost-effective port, offering balanced equipment flows through full vessel discharge and loading,” Mr. Comtois said.
As the closest international container port to Eastern Canada and the U.S. Midwest and Northeast, the Port of Montreal provides access to 110 million consumers in less than two days.
Mr. Charbonneau said operational efficiency at the Port is assured by the optimal management of the flow of goods through an intermodal marine-rail system known throughout the North American industry as the “Montreal Model.”
The Port operates its own on-dock railway system that is directly connected to CN and CP and their North American networks, with daily departures to Toronto, Chicago and Detroit. Container trains are assembled directly alongside ships, then brought by Port-owned locomotives to the rail interchange zone located on port territory. There, they connect with CN or CP locomotives. Conversely, incoming CN and CP unit trains make their way to the interchange zone where they are sorted by terminal and rerouted by Port locomotives.
Some 60 to 80 trains move through the Port each week.
“Service level agreements involving the railway companies, terminal operators and the Port Authority ensure short dwell times that are less than North American East Coast standards,” said Tony Boemi, the MPA’s Vice-President of Growth and Development.
A web-based rail yard management system and CN and CP personnel who work on the Port and communicate directly with terminal operators on train capacity needs also helps keep on-dock intermodal operations fluid.
The Port is also situated at the heart of a national network of highways leading to Eastern and Western Canada and the U.S. Up to 2,500 trucks move through the Port each day. They enter a state-of-the-art common portal featuring optical and video recognition units that quickly and accurately identify containers and trucks. Twenty-seven checkpoints are equipped with an automated registration system where a computer recognizes a truck driver’s fingerprint biometrics and validates the transaction.
Mr. Comtois said the Port of Montreal is “condemned to be efficient” because it has had little room to grow on the Island of Montreal.
Indeed, the Port expects to reach its maximum handling capacity on its Island of Montreal territory with the development of its new Viau Container Terminal. The following phase of port expansion will be on land that the MPA owns in Contrecoeur, located 40 kilometres downstream from Montreal. Planning efforts have been ongoing to develop a container terminal there that could eventually handle a maximum of 1.15 million TEUs. (For further information, please see story “Port Adapts, Develops to Optimize Cargo-Handling Capacity” in this Port Feature.)
“The fact that the port has a total area of 468 hectares of land at Contrecoeur and the capacity to expand there is something that few ports can say,” Mr. Comtois said.
A decision made by the Canadian Coast Guard almost three years ago to allow post-Panamax-type ships, including 6,000-TEU vessels, to sail to Montreal has allowed shipping lines to substantially increase capacity on their services to the Port. Meanwhile, new e-navigation technology is allowing shipping lines to make optimal use of the water column in the St. Lawrence River and will allow for extra draft through better use of available information.
Montreal offers dedicated weekly services from leading global carriers and welcomes more than 2,000 ships annually. International shipping lines serving the Port include Atlantic Ro-Ro Carriers, Canada States Africa Line, CMA CGM, Federal Atlantic Lakes Line, Hapag-Lloyd, Maersk Line, MSC, Nirint Shipping and OOCL.
Canadian lines are Algoma, Canada Steamship Lines, Canfornav, Fednav International, Groupe CTMA, Oceanex, Petro Nav, Rigel Shipping Canada and Transport Desgagnés.
The Port’s four international container terminals can each handle two 300-metre-long ships simultaneously. Termont Montréal operates Maisonneuve and Viau terminals. Montreal Gateway Terminals Partnership operates Cast and Racine terminals.
Empire Stevedoring Co. Ltd. operates Bickerdike Terminal, which mainly handles domestic traffic between Montreal and St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador, as well as domestic and international breakbulk cargo.
The Port is a major dry bulk centre that is of vital importance to industries that depend on raw materials. Logistec Stevedoring Inc. operates 12 berths in Montreal and Contrecoeur that handle iron ore, minerals, gypsum, gravel, raw sugar and other dry bulk commodities, as well as berths dedicated to breakbulk cargo. Canadian Salt Company Ltd. operates three dry bulk berths in Montreal.
In the grain sector, Viterra Inc. operates the Port’s grain elevator. It has a total storage capacity of 260,000 tonnes.
CanEst Transit Inc. operates a facility that stores, cleans, sifts, packages and containerizes agriculture products. It is strategically located next to the Port’s container terminals.
Montreal also is home to a major network of pipelines. Five companies operate berths in the Port that handle petroleum products or other liquid bulk products such as molasses and vegetable oil.