Container traffic is particularly strong: Preliminary data compiled by the Washington-based American Association of Port Authorities show that for the first eight months of this year, container traffic through Montreal grew 10.1 per cent from a year earlier.
Not only is the port thriving, it is upgrading and expanding its facilities for anticipated growth, having launched a $2.5-billion infrastructure project – Vision 2020 – that will unfold over the next 12 years with a goal, among others, of tripling the port's container capacity to the equivalent of 4.5 million 20-foot container units.
“We're running out of space,” says Patrice Pelletier, president and chief executive officer of the Montreal Port Authority (MPA). “The effects of the economic downturn could impact us in 2009, but these downturns are always cyclical and we want to be ready when the markets start coming back.
“We have to keep looking ahead,” he adds. “This is a long-term project. Let's face it, people aren't going to stop eating or buying things that they need for the house.”
The port, which is open year-round, sprawls along 25 kilometres of Montreal's waterfront. The downtown complex comprises four container terminals, 15 transit sheds for non-containerized general cargo (steel, forest products, food) and dry bulk (fertilizer, sugar, copper, road salt), storage space for 15 million barrels of liquid bulk (petroleum products) and a terminal capable of holding 260,000 tonnes of grain.
Vision 2020 is being implemented in four phases, of which the first is already under way. The first two will streamline and reorganize existing infrastructure – remodelling old buildings, utilizing empty parking lots, converting underutilized spaces into container terminals and so on.
Phases 3 and 4 will see the building of new terminals, either in Montreal East or at Contrecoeur, 40 kilometres down the St. Lawrence Seaway, to expand container capacity. The exact location and financing are yet to be worked out. more