By Brian Dunn

Construction of Termont Terminal’s new Viau container terminal at the Port of Montreal is well underway and has been in limited operation for about two months, according to Madeleine Paquin, Chair of Termont Terminal and Termont Montreal, which will operate the Viau site. Using two mobile harbour cranes, Viau is handling about 2,000 TEUs a week, added Julien Dubreuil, General Manager of Termont Montreal. They made the remarks following a tour of the site on a cruise ship on June 22.

As previously reported, construction of the Viau Terminal will be completed in two phases, with the first phase creating container-handling capacity for 350,000 TEUs by 2016. The second phase will add another 250,000 TEUs of capacity for a total of 600,000 TEUs. Combined with its Maisonneuve Terminal, Termont will have the capacity to handle 1.1 million TEUs annually.

Termont will be investing $42 million in new equipment, including two post-Panamax cranes, five rubber-tire gantry cranes, six reach stackers, electrically-powered reefer stations, an automated truck-marshalling gate, a high-density container yard and an intermodal service using on-terminal rail operations. The total project will cost $193 million, with Termont contributing a portion from the $42 million, Ottawa kicking in $42 million, with Montreal Port Authority (MPA) responsible for the balance, according to Sylvie Vachon, MPA’s President and CEO.

“With CargoM (Montreal’s logistics and transportation advocacy group), we’re trying to position Port of Montreal as the port for the northeast of the continent and not just for Montreal,” said Ms. Paquin during an interview. “With so much congestion in places like Virginia and New York, we have an opportunity to attract new business. You could have 15,000-18,000-TEU vessels doing three calls on the east coast versus a 4,000-5,000-TEU vessel discharging fully at one port like Montreal.”

During her presentation to about 120 guests and clients of Termont, Logistec, (part owner of Termont) and MSC (another part owner through Cerescorp and Termont’s largest client), Ms. Paquin said that by adding 30 per cent more capacity to the Port, “it will allow us to grow in volumes and efficiencies. It will also allow MSC and others to bring more ships more often and to cover a large geographical reach, thereby benefitting trade and economic prosperity.”

The Viau Terminal is the first to be constructed at the port since 1987, when Termont’s Maisonneuve terminal was built, noted Ms. Vachon. “This project is recognition of the important role that Montreal, its port, its railway network and its highway system play in North America’s logistics chain. It also shows the confidence that a major international carrier, MSC, has in the Port of Montreal and recognizes the quality of operations provided by the Termont team.”

“The expansion of Termont at Viau will reinforce MSC’s commitment to Canada and serve our partners in business for years to come,” added Sokat Shaikh, President of MSC Canada, which offers seven weekly services out of its three Canadian ports. “There’s a lot of congestion in terms of growth. Viau is being built because customers are looking more towards the east coast.”

The first half of 2015 compares favourably with the same period in 2014, with growth across all regions of Canada, Mr. Shaikh said during an interview. “We’re looking at our core customer base, and identify how we can work more closely with them with regards to the next few years.”

He cites the example of MSC customer Wal-Mart that grows by roughly three per cent a year or by $15 billion, and the way to plan for that growth is by investing in new ships and new terminals like Viau. “We have a huge order book coming in of 55 ships or 700,000 TEUs over the next two to three years which is double the size of Zim Container Lines. It’s the clients that dictate where you go.”

Turning to MSC’s terminal in St. John which opened in 2012, Mr. Shaikh said growth has been steady, noting the spike in the port’s numbers is all MSC. “Their customers have finally found a comfort level (in dealing) with a company that’s international that didn’t show up and left after six months. Initially, the service started as twice a month, but is weekly now and sometimes we’ve made calls twice a week with two vessels.”

Business also continues to do well at Logistec, said President and CEO Ms. Paquin during a separate interview. “Nothing is easy, but we’re trying to develop our port logistics and container traffic and that’s going well. We’re also trying to develop our bulk business, but Plan Nord (Quebec’s ambitious multi-billion dollar effort to exploit the north’s natural resources) is in deceleration mode because the price of iron ore is so low. We continue to have some projects in the Arctic and we continue to work on various other projects. Our biomass business continues to do well and we just signed another customer in the U.S. and we’re building more capacity for that terminal.

“Other than that, I would say steady as she goes. I wouldn’t say we’re in a wave of growth, but we have to be more selective in our growth strategy in order to continue to do well