Bickerdike Terminal is the port's most diversified facility. It handles containers, and general and oversized cargo in addition to welcoming passengers.
Don Scardochio, Director of Operations at Empire
Stevedoring, in front of Windmill Point Basin.
Empire Stevedoring has a long history at Bickerdike, where it has provided loading and unloading services since 1931 to the commercial ships that dock there.
Unlike other port terminals, which specialize in either containerized cargo or dry or liquid bulk cargo, this terminal – managed by the Chodos family for three generations – can accommodate many types of vessels: bulk carriers, container ships and vessels carrying oversized cargo.
“We sure have the best view of Montreal!” exclaimed Don Scardochio, Director of Operations at Empire Stevedoring, with a wide-sweeping gesture indicating the landscape around Bickerdike Terminal in the Port of Montreal. At the end of the pier located at the extreme west of the port, the city stood before us with nothing obstructing the view. Advertisers and filmmakers, who regularly ask permission to set up their cameras here, also covet this unique location in the city. To the south, Cité-du-Havre offers a view of fresh greenery and the iconic silhouette of Habitat 67.
Near the north wharf, in the Windmill Point Basin, two blue travelling cranes stretch their necks and wait for the containers they load or unload from the vessel docked in front of them. There are also two ramps that handle specialized cargo such as automobiles.
About 20 employees are responsible for ensuring smooth operations, equipment maintenance and security at the terminal. When a vessel arrives, everything must be ready to unload her cargo as quickly as possible in a completely safe environment. In winter, the terminal is thoroughly ploughed so that markings on the asphalt used to identify containers are always visible.
Two Empire warehouses are located along Bickerdike
Basin. The CTMA Vacancier docks at the end of the basin
during the summer.
Follow the guide!
Our guide, Don Scardochio, showed us around the three huge warehouses located on the more than 300,000 square-metre surface area of Bickerdike Pier. The Director of Operations knows every nook and cranny; he started working at Empire at age 20, after completing a degree in psychology at McGill University, making pallets as a summer job before continuing his studies. He never left.
The warehouse located near the docks of Bickerdike Basin house new cars from Ontario on their way to dealerships in Newfoundland, as well as the cars of passengers who board the CTMA Vacancier cruise ship to the Magdalen Islands.
Another warehouse receives copper anodes from Chile, delivered about once a month by ship. These anodes will complete their journey by truck to Glencore’s CCR Refinery in Montreal's east end, the only refinery of its kind in North America. “Each slab weighs 750 pounds, said Don Scardochio. “It takes a four-axle truck to carry 100 slabs. It’s not exactly dainty work.”
These trailers await an Oceanex ship, and will soon
provide driving holidays for Newfoundland
The third warehouse is used to store Empire’s lifting equipment: steel cables, chain, beams, etc. All equipment is certified annually. There is no skimping when it comes to marine safety. The days when stevedores worked without a helmet are long gone.
Steel railway tracks from Poland will head to
Manitoba aboard a special train capable of transporting
cargo of this length.
A family business
Sam Chodos would be proud of the company he founded more than 80 years ago. “My grandfather left his village in Lithuania, where he was dying of hunger,” said Andrew Chodos, the current President and CEO. In Montreal, the young Lithuanian tried his hand at all the trades before opening a tavern where longshoremen and sailors came to relax. “That’s how he became interested in marine shipping, and he founded the company based on a new way to load grain that he came up with.” It was a good idea!
Andrew Chodos, President and
CEO of Empire Stevedoring.
Andrew’s father, Ted, took over Empire’s reins in 1975 and expanded its global marine shipping activities, a task the third Chodos is carrying forward. Today, the company operates in nine major North American ports, as far away as Houston. An heir apparent is already in place to take over when the time comes; Andrew's nephew Matthew, age 26, the son of Roberta Bonnie Chodos, is already working in the family business as a ship superintendent.
Empire Stevedoring’s most frequent client is Oceanex, the Newfoundland-based carrier whose vessels connect with the Port of St. John’s twice a week. Its roll-on/roll-off vessel, the MV Cabot, and its container ship Oceanex Avalon carry about 40% of all the goods needed for the Newfoundland-Labrador population of 514,500 people. “In 2010, Oceanex was declared an essential service,” stated Daniel Bélisle, Executive Vice-President, based in Montreal.
Daniel Belisle, Executive Vice-
Président of Oceanex, based in
Oceanex is an important player in Newfoundland, with 400 employees, four ships, 2,500 containers and two terminals to manage - one in St. John’s and the other in Corner Brook. Its president, Captain Sid Hynes, is a colourful character. A retired captain, he accepted the presidency on the condition that he could form a consortium and buy the company, which at the time was a public entity. This occurred in 2007, at a cost of $230 million.
The company’s reputation is second to none. In February 2012, it was recognized as one of Canada’s 50 best-managed companies, a prestigious award given by Deloitte, CIBC, the National Post and Queen’s School of Business.
The Oceanex Avalon enters theWindmill
Point Basin loaded with containers.
On October 24, a brand-new ship replaced the MV Cabot and for the first time navigated the waters of the Port of Montreal: the Oceanex Connaigra, a German-built ship that was launched last spring. At 210 metres in length, it is the largest Canadian container / roll-on, roll-off (con/ro) ship. This ro/ro ship is equipped with two access ramps enabling loads such as automobiles to enter and exit the vessel.
The Oceanex Connaigra.
A wonder of versatility, the Connaigra can carry containers ranging from 20 to 53 feet in length, as well as trucks, trailers, cars and oversized cargo. Thanks to is sleekness, it also consumes 30% less fuel than comparable heavyweight ships. On top of that, her innovative desulfurizing treatment of exhaust gases enable her to already meet the environmental requirements that will come into force in 2015.