Although the Port of Montreal is a globally diversified port, it has long been the main hub for trade between Europe and North America. In fact, today Montreal handles more container traffic between Northern Europe and the U.S. Midwest than any other port in North America.

Northern Europe is the Port of Montreal’s main market, accounting for 44 per cent of the containerized cargo traffic moving through the Port. “It’s a mature and stable market,” said Tony Boemi, Vice-President of Growth and Development for the Montreal Port Authority (MPA).

Among the Port of Montreal’s numerous advantages, it is on the shortest direct route from Europe and the Mediterranean to North America’s industrial heartland. Ocean transit time between Montreal and Europe is only eight days.

With its strategic location 1,600 kilometres inland, Montreal is the closest international container port to North America’s industrial heartland. It provides access to 40 million consumers within one trucking day and another 70 million consumers within two rail days. The Port has excellent highway connections to the hinterland, and it is directly connected to transcontinental Class 1 railways Canadian National and Canadian Pacific. Its three international container terminals can each handle two 300-metre container ships simultaneously.

Numerous container services or maritime routes link Montreal to European ports:

• The SLCS 1 (St. Lawrence Coordinated Service 1), a joint agreement among Hapag-Lloyd, MSC and OOCL;

• The SLCS 2 (St. Lawrence Coordinated Service 2), an agreement between Hapag-Lloyd and OOCL; and

• The TA-4, a service operated by Maersk and CMA CGM.

Federal Atlantic Lakes Line and Nirint Shipping, which handle various types of cargo, also provide services between Montreal and Europe.

The Port of Montreal is linked to numerous European ports including Antwerp, Bremerhaven, Hamburg, Le Havre, Liverpool, Rotterdam, Thamesport and St. Petersburg.

European markets, including the Mediterranean, already represent 39 per cent of the total volume of traffic and close to 65 per cent of container traffic moving through the Port of Montreal.

On the inland side, Quebec accounts for 35 per cent of Canadian exports moving to Europe. These exports, in particular those transported by container, move for the most part through the Port of Montreal.

Additionally, more than 95 per cent of Quebec and Ontario importers and exporters choose the Port of Montreal to reach European markets.

One company that uses the Port of Montreal to import products from Europe is Déli Prestige. The Montreal-based firm specializes in the import of fresh and frozen foods from Belgium for wide distribution to major grocery store chains in Canada.

Déli Prestige imports through the Port of Montreal fresh olives every three weeks by container from a production facility in Southern Belgium, and it expects frequency to increase to every week, said president Olivier Grosman. The company also imports salad croutons and frozen Belgian fruit waffles.

“We use the Port of Montreal because it is a strategic hub and the fastest gateway into North America from Belgium,” Mr. Grosman said. “This is important, especially because we import fresh products, and the Port of Montreal has the capacity to quickly and efficiently handle our containers.”

While the Port already is reaping the benefits of trade with Europe, the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) between Canada and the European Union (EU) is expected to bring additional traffic through Montreal.

“The Port, which welcomes the world’s leading marine carriers, has many longstanding European partners,” said Sylvie Vachon, President and CEO of the Montreal Port Authority. “Our business relations are promised a bright future thanks to the new free-trade agreement between Canada and the European Union that will promote trade on both sides of the Atlantic.

“CETA is made to measure for the Port of Montreal. We already are the leading port on the North American East Coast for trade between Northern Europe and North America’s industrial heartland. With our strategic location between the world’s two largest economic blocs – the EU and NAFTA – the Port of Montreal is the natural gateway for Europe.”

“Our daily existence has become dependent on globalization,” said Sokat Shaikh, Managing Director of MSC Canada. “The majority of what all Canadians buy at any retail point, along with manufacturing within Canada, is traded with countries worldwide. MSC’s global investments thus far, along with future long-term investments, will continue to remain aligned with both global and regional demands.

“MSC Canada’s investment in terminals along with independent liner services for imports and exports to and from Canada are ready to accommodate the organic growth and the expected growth from the CETA agreement. Our commitment to simplifying our customers’ trade with Europe will continue to be our focus.”