On the heels of a record performance in 2017, the Port of Montreal has moved an important step further to establish a sixth container terminal, located at Contrecoeur, where there is an existing bulk shipping facility 25 miles away on the south shore of the St. Lawrence River. It released an environmental impact report on Feb. 1 on the C$650 million project aimed at strengthening Montreal’s competitive position on North America’s east coast.
The findings of the report will be the subject of public consultations organized by the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency, including information sessions from February 27 to March 1. The project will need to be approved by the regulatory agency and Oceans Canada before it can proceed.
As the only container port in Quebec and the largest port in Eastern Canada, the Port of Montreal is planning its future development to remain competitive with the U.S. East Coast ports that are investing approximately US$9 billion in their infrastructures to notably handle larger containerships.
“This additional port space that will become the Contrecœur container terminal will make it possible to support the growth of this business segment and make the most of the economic and commercial opportunities arising from emerging markets, the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement and the Quebec Maritime Strategy,” said Daniel Dagenais, vice-president, Operations and head of the project at the MPA.
While highlighting such benefits as the creation of about 1,000 jobs and additional revenues, the report produced by the SNC-Lavalin engineering firm singled out a number of potential environmental impacts on local wildlife as well as the effect of some 2,000 trucks daily calling at the terminal. Banks would be eroded and several hectares of wetlands would be lost during construction. And dredging work on the riverbed would have a “strong” impact in terms of loss of habitat for the Western chorus frog and the copper redhorse fish regarded as endangered species.
At a press conference, Dagenais expressed confidence that the port will be able to mitigate the impact of the project on wildlife, recreating habitat that is destroyed notably during the construction phase slated to begin in 2020.
Currently handling 1.5 million TEU annually, the Port of Montreal’s throughput is expected to reach 2.5 million TEU by 2030 as trade expands. Main markets are Quebec, Ontario and the U.S. Midwest and Northeast (about one-fifth of total throughput).
It is estimated that existing facilities will attain saturation point to meet demand by 2022. Upon final regulatory approval, the first phase of the Contrecoeur Maritime Terminal Expansion project provides for completion by 2023, adding capacity of 1.15 million TEU. The three-phase project has the potential to expand capacity to handle 3.5 million TEU.
For several years, the MPA has been planning a container terminal on its land in Contrecœur, a land reserve it acquired between 1988 and 1992. This is a strategic location for container handling because of its favourable geography, nearby rail and road networks and the proximity of the markets it serves. In addition to providing flexibility to meet long-term needs, the target site is located in a non-urban area with space available for industrial and logistics development.
The report points out that Montreal has been able to accommodate container ships with nominal capacities of 6,000 TEU since 2013 and, as an inland river port will never see the mega vessels of 12,000 to 21,000 TEU presently sailing in European and Asian waters. However, it stresses that “unlike its east coast competitors, Montreal is a destination port. This means that every ship calling at the Port of Montreal is completely unloaded and reloaded, which is not the case at other ports along the East Coast.”
The report refers to Montreal as “a unique model” where there is “little interest in engaging in the race for gigantism.”
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