Port working to build partnerships, further enhance fluidity and reliability

‘Port+’ is a differentiation strategy in which the Port of Montreal will complement its core activities with value-added services. “Ports today must set themselves apart by creating value for their clients and for the supply chains that they serve,” said Sylvie Vachon, president and CEO of the Montreal Port Authority (MPA). “Our Port+ strategy does just that.”

Containerization facility

A new facility on port territory that will specialize in the cleaning and containerization of agricultural products destined for local and international markets is “a perfect fit with our Port+ strategy to offer value-added services to our users and to attract new clients,” Ms. Vachon said.

CanEst Transit Inc. will operate the new containerization facility. The company has signed a long-term lease with the MPA to operate out of the port’s former Grain Elevator No. 3 annex. The centre is scheduled to open July 15 upon completion of a $22-million modernization project, including the installation of new conveyors, scales and other equipment.

CanEst Transit will receive by rail and truck, and store, clean and containerize bulk agricultural products from Quebec, Ontario, Western Canada and the U.S. Midwest. It will also offer bagging services. Once agricultural products are cleaned and ready for loading, trucks will proceed to one of three chutes – two for containers and one for bags to be loaded into containers. CanEst Transit will be able to load eight containers per hour as well as two different products simultaneously.

Containers will be transported by truck to local markets or directly to the Port of Montreal’s container terminals for onward transit by vessel to the international markets that the port’s container lines serve, including Western and Eastern Europe, the Mediterranean, North Africa and Asia.

“The proximity of port facilities is a major advantage in the agri-food industry,” said Réal Bélanger, general manager of CanEst Transit, in reference to the Port of Montreal’s strategic geographic location. “Montreal has always been a major shipping and receiving centre for agricultural products from Quebec, Ontario, Western Canada and the U.S. Midwest. With this facility, we will be able to offer a new service right on the port for the cleaning and containerization of agricultural products.”

The facility will bring greater volumes of dry bulk traffic into the port, which handled 6.55 million tonnes of cargo in this sector in 2013, its best year in this traffic category in almost a decade.

CanEst Transit was founded by agri-food group La Coop fédérée, holding company Transit BD Inc., and MGT Holdings S.A.R.L., which operates two container terminals in the Port of Montreal.

The new facility will have an initial storage capacity of 68,000 tonnes, divided among 56 silos of 900 tonnes each and 35 silos of 300 to 500 tonnes each. This will be ideal for identity preservation of all products handled at the complex. The facility will be able to receive up to 50 railcars.

Clients will include leading agri-business companies. “With the assortment of shipping lines and two railway companies serving the Port of Montreal, our new service will be able to offer competitive costs,” Mr. Bélanger said. “The fact that we can receive railcars and store product immediately will eliminate any demurrage charges.”

Electronic navigation

A new tool that allows shipping lines to maximize their use of the water column in the St. Lawrence River navigation channel to Montreal is another important value-added service in the Port of Montreal. With the assistance of key partners, the MPA has developed a portal that provides in real time the available water column in the channel. With real-time information and computer simulations, ships leaving Europe eight days before arriving in Montreal will now have better-quality information, which will allow them to optimize vessel loading.

The project involved the MPA and major partners including the Canadian Coast Guard and the Canadian Hydrographic Service.


The Port of Montreal is also working to build new partnerships. It has played a key role in the creation of CargoM, the Logistics and Transportation Cluster of Metropolitan Montreal. Ms. Vachon is the chair of the board of directors of CargoM.

The mission of CargoM is to gather all stakeholders from logistics and goods movement, whose operations make Greater Montreal a hub, to work on shared goals and take concerted action to strengthen cohesion, boost competitiveness and extend influence. More precisely, CargoM will promote Montreal as a logistics and freight transportation hub. It will introduce best practices and leading-edge technologies.

CargoM launched three working groups in 2013. “CargoM working groups are dedicated to advanced thinking and developing actions on the cluster’s priority issues,” said Mathieu Charbonneau, executive director of CargoM. “They support the board of directors by recommending the most appropriate strategies and ensuring their implementation.”

Most recently, the Logistics and Transportation Development Opportunities working group held a workshop on logistics parks on February 18. “It was a huge success with 90 participants,” Mr. Charbonneau said.

The Communications and Outreach working group unveiled in January a profile of Greater Montreal’s logistics and transportation industry prepared by KPMG-Secor. The study will allow CargoM to identify priority action areas and develop specific projects.

The working group entitled Access and Fluidity for Truck Transportation in Greater Montreal is working, among other projects, on the Ottoview pilot project, in partnership with Transport Canada, to equip trucks with digital recorders that collect data on truck movements in order to develop strategies to improve traffic flows in the region.

CargoM will launch three new working groups in 2014:

Best Practices and Technology, Regulations, and Human Resources/Workforce.

Fluidity and reliability

The port is also working to further enhance its services. Following agreements that the MPA signed with Canadian Pacific and Canadian National railways and its terminal operators to improve supply chain efficiency, the average dwell time for imported containers at the Port of Montreal has decreased by 40 per cent in the past five years.

The port has been working closely with terminal operators lately to enhance the quality of its data, moving ahead with a new partnership aiming to create a more open data-exchange environment. This continuous improvement process has enabled the port to recently restate its import dwell-time performance based on better information and visibility on container movements at its terminals. The average container dwell time for rail imports (elapsed time from vessel discharge until loaded to railcar) in 2013 averaged 2.0 days, just within its set target of 48 hours. “This is considerably less than North American East Coast standards, thanks to our unique rail model,” Ms. Vachon said.

“Containers are in and out of the port quickly,” added Brian Slack, a geography, planning and environment professor at Concordia University in Montreal and an expert on maritime transport and intermodality. “Historically, the port has operated on a very constrained site, which has forced it to operate at high levels of efficiency. However, the port cannot rest on its laurels in this regard.”

Meanwhile, the MPA, the Quebec Transport Ministry (QTM) and the City of Montreal have worked collaboratively on two major projects that will improve truck access at the Port of Montreal. The QTM announced last May the signature of a collaborative framework with the City of Montreal for the extension of L’Assomption Boulevard, a new transportation route that will connect with Souligny Avenue and thereby allow trucks leaving the port to directly access the highway network. A port exit will be built to join this new stretch of road.

The QTM also announced the construction of a Highway 25 exit ramp leading south that will allow trucks to directly reach the port’s common truck entry portal located at the corner of Notre-Dame and De Boucherville streets. Meanwhile, the reconfiguration of the entrance ramp leading north on Highway 25 will provide trucks leaving the port at the Louis-Hyppolyte Lafontaine Bridge-Tunnel with direct access to the highway network.