The Port of Montreal is playing a key role in a plan to create a logistics and transportation industrial cluster for the Greater Montreal region.

Sylvie Vachon, President and CEO of the Montreal Port Authority, chairs an interim committee that has been established to analyze the possibilities of forming the cluster, which would bring together all players in the logistics and transportation sector in the Greater Montreal region. The project is an initiative of the Montreal Metropolitan Community with the support of the Quebec government.

The cluster would confirm the status of Montreal and its port as an intermodal node and encourage the development of transportation and logistics projects for the Greater Montreal region, Ms. Vachon said.

An industrial cluster is a geographical concentration of firms and ancillary companies engaged in the same sector. Six cluster initiatives already exist in the Montreal region, among which are the aerospace and information technology clusters.

A meeting of logistics and transportation industry partners held at the end of 2011 has convinced the interim committee to move forward with its efforts to organize a structure for the cluster.

“There is a high concentration of companies in the Montreal region that operate in the logistics and transportation sector, so the cluster as such exists,” Ms. Vachon said. “We now need to determine if we want to formalize it – to make it official. From the meetings we’ve had, the desire is there.

“We have established a business plan whereby we have a clearer vision of what the mandate and objectives of the logistics and transportation cluster should be and the major challenges it would tackle in the first years of its existence.”

Those common challenges include increasing cargo volumes through the Montreal region, improving cargo traffic flow, and harmonizing various regulations.

“With the cluster, the industry takes charge; it is really managed by industry,” Ms. Vachon said.

In addition to the port, there are dozens and dozens of companies located in the Greater Montreal region that work in the cargo transportation supply chain. They include international and domestic shipping lines, terminal operators and stevedoring companies, railway and trucking companies, shipping agents, and freight forwarders and brokers.

In fact, Montreal is home to the Canadian operations of three leading international shipping lines – Mediterranean Shipping Company, Hapag-Lloyd and CMA CGM. It is also the headquarters of numerous Canadian marine industry companies including the Fednav Group, Canada’s largest ocean-going, dry-bulk shipowning and chartering group that transports bulk and breakbulk cargo around the world; the CSL Group, a world-leading provider of marine dry-bulk cargo-handling and delivery services; and Logistec Stevedoring, which handles containers, general cargo and bulk commodities in 23 ports in Eastern Canada, on the Great Lakes and along the U.S. East Coast.

The industrial cluster would also include Montreal region universities, colleges and researchers involved the transportation and logistics sector. “The cluster would connect the industry to researchers and colleges and universities, thereby getting everyone on the same page,” Ms. Vachon said.

The interim committee headed by Ms. Vachon is now looking at how the cluster should be financed. Generally, one-quarter of industrial cluster financing is provided by the industry itself, while three-quarters comes from various levels of government.

Ms. Vachon said the hope is to officially launch the logistics and transportation industrial cluster sometime in 2012.