A project that is vital to support the growth of the container market, a cargo-handling sector that generates economic development for Montreal, Quebec and Eastern Canada, has entered a crucial phase.

The Montreal Port Authority (MPA) has proposed the construction of container port terminal on its property at Contrecoeur, located some 40 kilometres downstream from Montreal, in order to handle containerized cargo growth through the port. The terminal would have a maximum annual capacity of 1.15 million TEUs (20-foot equivalent unit containers).

“This is more than just a port terminal. It’s an important, forward-looking project for the Quebec and Canadian economies. It will help continue to connect businesses here with the entire world for the years to come,” said Sylvie Vachon, the MPA’s President and Chief Executive Officer.

The MPA understood long ago that it would need to prepare for the future, given the very positive growth forecasts in the container sector. The port’s container-handling capacity on the island of Montreal is 2.1 million TEUs. More than 1.5 million TEUs moved through the port in 2017.

“The annual growth among our clients and the arrival of the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) with the European Union tell us that we will soon reach capacity in Montreal,” Ms. Vachon said. “We need to be ready. We can never afford to hang a ‘no vacancy’ sign at the port entrance.”

The Contrecoeur Port Terminal Expansion project crossed a key milestone in January when the MPA released the main findings of the project’s Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), made public by the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency (CEAA). The MPA carried out the assessment in collaboration with a team of experts from SNC-Lavalin. The study examines numerous issues, grouped under five themes: road and rail traffic; the environment – water and land; marine transportation; economic benefits; and human environment – impacts for neighbouring communities.

Subsequently, the MPA took part in public hearings that were held over three days at the end of February and beginning of March by the CEAA to present the results of the EIA. The CEAA organized an open house and two moderated public sessions at which MPA stakeholders interacted with citizens and various interest groups, answered their questions and listened to their concerns. The CEAA continued the consultation by soliciting written comments until March 9.

“This process has indicated to us once again that our project is being well received by the community,” Ms. Vachon said.

The CEAA is currently considering the comments that it received on the project. The MPA is working with the agency and providing additional information to its requests. This is a standard stage that lasts about a year in the CEAA assessment process.

The CEAA-led exercise echoes the broad consultation and cooperation process that the MPA had launched in 2014 in which it voluntarily consulted, listened to and informed hundreds of citizens and stakeholders, including environmental and economic groups, the municipal sector and First Nations groups. Issues raised during these consultations were integrated into the EIA.

“The voluntary consultative process is a concrete example of the priority we give to our relations with neighbouring communities,” Ms. Vachon said.

A strategic location for a container terminal

Contrecoeur is a strategic location for the terminal because of its favourable geometry (the site is ideally configured to operate a modern container terminal), its connection to intermodal rail and road networks, including Highway 30, an existing pool of specialized labour, and the proximity of the markets it will serve. It is located in a mainly industrial area, facilitating cohabitation with residential areas.

Moreover, there is ample space for industrial and logistics development near the terminal project site. In fact, the Government of Quebec already has announced the creation of an international logistics pole and an industrial port zone at Contrecoeur.

“The logistics pole and the container-handling zone will mutually feed each other to become a major vector for economic development,” Ms. Vachon said.

MPA names Vice-President, Contrecoeur

To spearhead and implement the container terminal project, the MPA has appointed Ryan Dermody to the newly created position of Vice-President, Contrecoeur. Mr. Dermody will guide, plan and oversee all of the activities related to the project and work with partners involved in establishing the logistics centre and industrial port zone in the Contrecoeur sector.

Mr. Dermody has extensive knowledge of port, logistics and supply chain operations, complex financing arrangements, and stakeholder relations management for major projects. Prior to joining the MPA, he was Investissement Québec’s Senior Director for Infrastructure Projects in the energy and logistics fields.

The container terminal project would create 5,000 jobs during construction, 1,000 direct jobs during the operation of the facility, and hundreds of millions of dollars in economic benefits.

Construction of the terminal is scheduled to start in 2020, conditional on obtaining the necessary permits and other success factors. Commissioning of the terminal is planned for 2023-24.