Port of Trois Rivières is setting its sights on the future with its ambitious On Course 2030 plan, succeeding its earlier On Course 2020 plan. The initiative contains several objectives to improve the overall performance of the port which has seen cargo volumes increase by over 58 per cent in the last 12 years in major industrial sectors such as aluminum, forestry, construction and agri-food. “We want to make the port more competitive and the region more attractive to investors by improving the competitiveness of the supply chain,” explained Gaétan Boivin, Port President and CEO.
At the heart of the plan is the construction of Terminal 21 which will increase the port’s capacity by 1.5 million tonnes or nearly 50 per cent, adding 716 metres of wharf to existing facilities, and will extend nearly 100,000 sq m to the west. It will include the addition of three berths, increased storage space and improved road and rail access. “We want to create today the terminal of tomorrow.
Innovation is at the heart of this project, as is adherence to the three spheres of sustainable development. This is a must,” noted Mr. Boivin.
Reconstruction of wharves 16 and 17 are also projects that have been added along the way that are aligned with these priorities. “We are working on these projects with our clients who use these docks and we are on the same page. Optimization of operations and protection of the environment are at the heart of the project,” said Mr. Boivin. For example, the port wants to do its part for the environment with its partners at these facilities by replacing bunker fuel with either biofuels or electricity for the ships that will dock at the new terminal.
The Port has implemented a five-year plan (2019-23) with funds generated by its clients available for projects to stimulate innovation and reduce its environmental impact. “Overall, the On course 2030 budget now hovers around 350 million.”
Mr. Boivin noted that Port of Trois-Rivières contributed to more than 25 research and innovation projects in 2021, from environmental protection, to road and rail transportation modeling, improved handling practices and the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. One of the project’s objectives was to help design a strategic decision support tool to assist Ports in choosing best practices and innovative technologies. The project is directly integrated into an initiative “building the port of tomorrow today,” explained Jacques Paquin, the Port’s Executive Vice President. Mr. Boivin aims to make the St. Lawrence River more competitive by creating a centre of expertise, possibly with other ports. “To play a larger role, the St. Lawrence must be more accessible and more competitive and we need to collaborate with different ports to make it easier for business. We have to look at the entire port infrastructure to increase competitiveness.”
Founded by French colonists in 1634, Trois-Rivières is Canada’s oldest industrial city, with its first foundry, La Forge, established in La Forge produced iron and cast iron for 150 years, much of it shipped to France to be used in French navy ships.
The first port facility was built in 1818, but it wasn’t until 1882 that the Trois-Rivières Harbour Commission was created, the forerunner to today’s Trois Rivières Port Authority, which is celebrating its 140th anniversary this year. Back then, the population of Trois-Rivières was 8,670 – today it’s over 140,000. The port’s growth, and that of the city, reflect the city’s growing industrial importance. Key developments in the city’s industrial development included the following:
In 1893, the Dominion Coal Company rented a storage area on the Commissaires’ dock, from where large volumes of coal were distributed.
From the late 1920s until the early 1960s, the city was became known as the pulp and paper industry capital of the world. The city once had five mills in operation. Canadian International Paper Company (CIP) commenced its activities in 1920. Its docks would later be integrated into the existing port facilities.
During the First World War, wheat, barley and oat production increased dramatically, resulting in the first grain elevator built in 1920 at the port. Three years later, the St. Lawrence Paper Mill moved to Trois-Rivières which later became Domtar and then Kruger.
In 1928, the Dominion Coal Company installed coal handling infrastructure that featured three mobile steel cranes mounted on rails erected along the dock. A year later, the port obtained a $3 million loan (about $50 million in today’s currency) from the federal government to build several docks and create new terminals, completed in 1934. Toronto- based Upper Lakes and St. Lawrence Transportation built a similar structure two years later.
In 1936, the Harbour Commission was dissolved and the National Harbours Board was created to regroup all federal ports. “Before that, everything was centralized. There was no local decision making,” said Jacques Paquin, Executive Vice-President. “The date also corresponded with major construction that reflects today’s port designs.”
The demand for grain prompted Upper Lakes to construct a large auxiliary timber warehouse in 1940, connected to the elevator by a network of underground conveyors with a second elevator added in 1958. Work began to build section 20 on the west end of the port that same year.
The opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway in the spring of 1959 enabled increased marine traffic and opened up new opportunities. “The impact was especially important for the grain sector,” explained Mr. Paquin. “Capacity was doubled, but because of the port’s diversification, grain now only represents between 25-30 per cent of our business, compared to about 75 per cent in 1980.”
The Upper Lakes Company felt that their facilities were insufficient to meet the demand and decided to begin construction of a third elevator in the summer of 1962.
In October, 1962, the Port’s purchase of the Canada Steamship Line warehouse at Section 6 made it possible to plan the modernization of the eastern part of the harbour, and several warehouses were demolished.
In 1963, Prommel Group, now Groupe Somavrac, was founded at the port. The Group was a collection of companies whose principal activities were the stowage, transportation, storage, distribution, handling and processing of chemicals.
In 1970, Logistec Corporation (short for logistics and technology) acquired shipping agency Ramsez Greig & Co. Ltd., as well as Three Rivers Shipping Co. Ltd. and J. C. Malone & Company Ltd., solidifying its position at the port.
In 1978, Ontario-based Upper Lakes Group created a division responsible for administrating the Trois-Rivières facilities called Les Élévateurs des Trois-Rivières (ÉTR). In 1981, ÉTR decided to replace the five grain chutes with three telescopic shipping towers that would allow for faster loading of larger ships, such as Panamax-class vessels. Following the decline of the grain market in the early 1980s, ÉTR had to convert a portion of its facilities to handle raw materials for Deschambault Aluminerie in the 1990s.
Two years later, the Canada Ports Corporation, also known as Ports Canada, was created to replace the National Harbours Board. Two categories of ports were created: local port corporations and divisional ports. Trois-Rivières, as a divisional port, was administered locally by a Chief Executive Officer, but would have to report to the national office for long-term strategic and development decisions. In 1999, Ports Canada was dissolved and Ottawa launched a major reform that created 17 federal ports across the country. Under the reform, Trois-Rivières was listed as a national port and the Trois-Rivières Port Authority (TRPA) was created.
A forward-looking reflection on the future of the port led TRPA to undertake a strategic planning process in 2008 that resulted in the implementation of a development plan entitled On Course 2020. The plan envisioned “developing modern, productive, community-integrated infrastructures in support of a skilled workforce.” “It had an important impact that gave us the infrastructure we have today,” noted Mr. Paquin. “Before that, we suffered from a lack of capacity.”
In 2013, Upper Lakes Group concluded the sale of its grain division, including ÉTR, to the Canadian Wheat Board. Two years later, the Wheat Board merged its facilities with Bunge Canada to create G3 Canada Limited, which currently operates the elevator terminal at the port.
On October 10, 2018, TRPA unveiled its On Course 2030 development plan. In addition to continuing investments in port infrastructure, the plan aims to fully deploy the potential of the port’s urban character. Based on the principles of sustainable development, On Course 2030 focuses on being an innovative growth generator at the heart of a competitive supply chain.
Last year was a good one for the port of Trois-Rivières which handled 3.9 million tonnes of goods, with an estimated value of $5.3 billion, up 20 per cent from to the previous year. The figure for the current year is expected to be about the same as 2021.
“These results were achieved thanks to the hard work, resilience and ability to adapt and innovate of our partners, namely our cargo handlers, G3 Canada, Groupe Somavrac, Logistec, and QSL”,said Gaétan Boivin, President and CEO of the Port.
Those partners are just as enthusiastic about their relationships with the Port, including Groupe Somavrac which has been headquartered in Trois-Rivières since 1963 and has an important physical presence at the port. Its solid and liquid bulk terminal covers 90,000 square metres, including four berths, nine solid bulk sheds totalling 31,500 sq m and tanks that can accommodate 250,000 cubic metres of liquid bulk as well as two mobile cranes, pipeline network and rail access. In addition, it operates Terminal 13 at the port, covering 23,000 sq m. The terminal is served by a network of pipelines connected to reservoirs north of the port as well as by rail and road, making it a highly versatile storage platform. “Somavrac and the Port have had a strong partnership since 1963 and have grown together,” said Jacques Paquin, the Port’s Executive Vice-President, in explaining the importance of the company to the port’s operations and growth.
QSL is another key player in the supply chain, specializing in port operations, stevedoring, logistics, maritime services and transport. The company has been active at the port for nearly 40 years through LOLA, the shipping agency whose 100 per cent ownership QSL completed in 2019. Since 2021, QSL has also held a long-term lease at the port, which will allow investments to deliver tailor-made success to its customers, said Robert Bellisle, President and COO of QSL. “This port is part of more than 60 terminals forming the QSL network in North America. We have nearly a dozen on-site employees. Specifically, we serve customers in the agriculture, aluminum and northern cargo sectors. “QSL is proud to anchor itself more deeply in the Port of Trois-Rivières,” added Mr. Bellisle. “The culture of partnership and sustainable development of the Port’s management and team, combined with its strategic position within our vast North American network makes Trois-Rivières a port of choice for new investments.”
Another cargo handler, Logistec Corp. and the Port have a business relationship that goes back more than 50 years. Roger Paquin founded Quebec Terminals Ltd. (now Logistec) in 1952 and Trois-Rivières was a key port to Logistec’s beginnings. Logistec’s principal cargoes consist of steel products, forest products, and many other types of general and breakbulk cargo.
“We would like to take this opportunity to congratulate Port of Trois-Rivières as it celebrates its 140th anniversary,” said Rodney Corrigan, President Logistec Stevedoring. “We have a very special business relationship with the Port, and our vision and values are well aligned. It is a true partnership: we assist each other – they help us to grow our business, and we leverage our expertise to bring new business to the port. It’s all about partnering for our customers and for a strong future for the port. “In collaboration with the Port, Logistec is able to offer the general cargo transportation industry unprecedented and seamless solutions, making Trois-Rivières the destination of choice for the transportation of non- containerized, breakbulk, general cargo, project cargo.”
On the grain side, G3 Canada of Winnipeg says its G3 Trois-Rivières operation is an important trans-shipment point for grain from other parts of Canada. Prairie crops that are sent by rail to Thunder Bay are loaded onto lakers to carry it down the Great Lakes – St. Lawrence Seaway system to G3 Trois-Rivières. There it is unloaded, stored and loaded onto ocean-going vessels for the trip to market. G3 Trois-Rivières is one of only a few facilities able to also unload vessels up to Panamax size, according to Peter Chura, Corporate Communications. G3 Trois-Rivières became part of the G3 network upon the company’s inception in 2015 and has a storage capacity of 110,000 MT. In addition to prairie crops, it receives crops by truck from hundreds of Quebec farms.
“Being able to deliver their grain directly to a port with access to G3’s export customers in more than 40 countries around the world is a great advantage to Quebec agricultural producers. The facility handles most commodities including wheat, corn, soybeans and barley,” said Mr. Chura. G3 employs about 60 staff at the Trois- Rivières terminal and its grain origination office in Saint- Hyacinthe.”
While not a cargo handler, Groupe Océan nevertheless plays an integral part in the port’s day to day activities. It operates two tugs, Ocean Bravo and Ocean Charlie. Bravo is 33.5 metres long with two Electro-Motive GMC Model 16 engines and a 50 -ton pulling capacity. Charlie is 33.8 m long with similar engines and pull capacity.
Groupe Océan began operations at the port in 2002 and handles in-port towing, transshipment of St. Lawrence pilots and dredging. Last July, it tested new maritime equipment at the port intended to rescue a person who has fallen overboard. It’s a cage made of rope and floats called “Billy Pugh” and can be deployed in three minutes using an onboard crane. For the purpose of the simulation, a 120-pound dummy acted as the man overboard.
The risk of ending up in the river is faced daily by the pilots of the St. Lawrence when boarding or alighting from a ship. In many cases, a simple rope ladder is used with no safety device.
Collaboration between the Port and the City
The Port of Trois-Rivières is an important player in regional, national and international industries such as the aluminum industry, forestry and agri- food.
Strategically located halfway between Montreal and Quebec City, the port of Trois-Rivières welcomes some 55,000 trucks, 11,000 rail cars and more than 250 merchant and cruise ships annually, originating from over 100 different ports in more than 40 countries around the world. It handles close to four million tonnes of traffic, has an annual economic impact of nearly $220 million and supports more than 2,000 direct and indirect jobs.
Those numbers haven’t been lost on Jean Lamarche who was elected mayor of Trois-Rivières in 2019. With the port, airport, university and strategic location, his city should be considered a preferred destination for investments. “You need to have an international vision to grow, and the Port is an employer of choice that offers attractive salaries and is very active in the culture, sports and environmental initiatives of the city.”
The mayor pointed out the city and port form a common interest in several areas such as research and develop and the introduction of new technology. The duo collaborate in several different areas, including the development of the city’s waterfront aimed at giving the citizens easier access to the St. Lawrence River, in presentations on the project to the Chamber of Commerce and in meetings with former federal Minister of transport Marc Garneau and François-Philippe Champagne, federal Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry. The Port is also a partner in the city’s bid for the Quebec Summer Games 2025 which would help increase the city’s vitality and visibility.
Another major collaboration with the City of Trois-Rivières is the development of a non-standard road corridor. The project will ensure a smooth connection for non-standard traffic between the industrial-port zone and the port, and involves the reconfiguration of the intersection of two streets, burying and/or raising electrical and communication wires, as well as reinforcing the roadway.
“We are very dependent on the port for a good transportation system which is important for our regional industries,” added Mario de Tilly, Director of Innovation and Economic Development of Trois-Rivières. “The port has allowed several Trois-Rivières companies to position themselves as leaders in their industry on a North American scale. The presence of the port and our industrial port zone has fostered growth and stimulated the development of new products and services for our manufacturing and value-added services companies. On the left Gaetan Boivin, President and CEO of Port of Trois-Rivieres, on the right Jean Lamarche, Mayor of Trois-Rivieres “The Port also collaborates in trade shows to attract new business, mostly from Ontario, Europe and the United states and is an important gateway for Shawinigan and Portneuf.”