2011 was a record-breaking year for the Port of Quebec, with nearly 29 million tons of freight handled, well ahead of the previous record of over than 27.2 million tons set in 2008.

The port achieved these impressive results largely by maintaining and expanding transshipment of the main classes of freight it handles for sectors such as the mining, steel, petroleum, agrifood, and construction industries. In 2011 the port resumed its continued growth after a dip in traffic that hit ports around the world in 2009 in the wake of the global financial and economic crisis.

Mining and steel industry products

Products for the mining and steel industries – especially iron ore and iron ore concentrate, other ores, nickel, copper, and zinc – make up a significant portion of total freight handled at the Port of Quebec. St. Lawrence Stevedoring is the main outfit involved in transshipping and warehousing these products. In 2011 tonnage of both iron ore and iron ore concentrate and their derivatives increased substantially, buoyed by consistent demand from overseas markets. This trend is likely to continue in 2012. Other metals stand to follow suit, particularly copper, which also displayed strong growth in 2011.

These mining products are expected to keep going strong. With rail links and state-of-the-art mining freight-handling infrastructure, the Port of Quebec is well-positioned to serve new projects connected to the Plan Nord. Specifics on the actual opportunities these projects will bring are expected in the coming months.

Coal transshipment was another area of robust growth in 2011, with further growth expected through 2012 in response to unflagging demand. Like other mining products, coal transshipped through the Port of Quebec travels to European and Asian markets, bolstering Quebec City’s status as the main transshipment port linking the St. Lawrence Seaway to the rest of the world.

Petroleum products

For the fourth year in a row, liquid bulk tonnage reached new heights at IMTT-Québec’s terminal. Demand for fuel has held steady over the past year, especially jet fuel, one of the main products handled at Canada’s biggest public liquid terminal.

Crude oil transshipments from the Ultramar terminal were also up in 2011. This increase was expected after a slight drop in 2010 due to both operational factors and a somewhat slower market.

Agrifood products

Grain transshipment remained relatively stable from 2010 to 2011. Numbers for the Bunge terminal reflect this, though tonnage was slightly down in 2011. Bunge, the Port of Quebec’s main grain terminal, has handled three- to four-million tons annually in recent years. The terminal mainly transships grain from Western Canada, but also services regional producers from throughout Quebec.

In 2011 the Sillery Distribution Center (CDS), which also handles grain, completed construction of a new indoor warehouse space that will allow it to meet growing demand stemming from new contracts. The terminal is partially owned by Coop Fédérée, which also handles fertilizers at the Port of Quebec. The Coop’s tonnage figures may have slipped compared to 2010, but 2011 was a good year nonetheless.

Raw sugar is also transshipped by St. Lawrence Stevedoring from its Anse-au-Foulon terminal to a Toronto refinery that single-handedly determines demand. This number was slightly down in 2011.

Construction industry products

For a third year running the cement terminal operated by Béton Provincial in the Estuary sector registered record tonnage, proof positive that this Quebec Port Authority (QPA) partner is flourishing and is ready to take full advantage of the opportunities of an industry well-served by this terminal.

Looking ahead

With its strategic location, the Port of Quebec’s great strengths are unquestionably the wide range of products and terminals, and the flexibility to handle them efficiently.

QPA continues to work closely with its partners to enhance its terminals’ capacity and flexibility. One key goal is to optimize the use of available space in order to meet the growing demand that is forecast for the coming years. Large-scale project planning with a view to boosting the port’s overall capacity will continue in 2012.

The Port of Quebec’s pivotal role in freight transshipment to and from the Great Lakes will undoubtedly bring opportunities in the coming years, including bulk products for the energy sector. The port is also extremely well-positioned to service mining projects connected with the Plan Nord, particularly those located in central Quebec and the James Bay area. With its rail connections and, the Port of Quebec is well-equipped to handle these mining products quickly and efficiently.  

The prospects for the years ahead look good for the port and its partners as they move forward with efforts to make the most of the port’s potential, operations, and economic spinoffs.