The Port of montreal has a new master


Jean-François Belzile, Master of the Port of Montreal

When Jean-François Belzile was hired as a deckhand on a trawler to fish shrimp in the Gulf of Mexico, at age 18 the young Quebecker could not have imagined that one day he would be Harbour Master of the Port of Montreal.

Since July 2015, he has been responsible for ensuring the operation, management and administration of marine transportation under the MPA’s jurisdiction, for the safe and efficient movement of vessels within Port territory. He sees to maintaining and applying procedures and compliance with relevant sections of the Canada Marine Act.

His career set him on a natural course for this position.

After high school, like many other young people, he didn’t have a clear idea of what he wanted to do in life. Hungering for discoveries, this resident of Laval who spent much of his youth by the sea in the Lower St. Lawrence, set out on adventure. His quest for self-discovery led him to the shores of a warmer sea than the waters of the Gulf of St. Lawrence… In Texas and Florida, he worked for several months aboard fishing vessels. That’s where his destiny hit him.

His mind was made up. In 1984, he enrolled in the Institut maritime du Québec in Rimouski. He was 21. After graduation, he became officer on ships that took him to the Arctic, captain of the ferry that connects Trois-Pistoles and Escoumins, then navigator on ocean-going vessels that brought him to ports in places as far away as Spain, Turkey, Mexico and the U.S. East Coast. His best memories are set in cafés facing the Aegean Sea in Turkey, and in Barcelona and Tarragona in Spain.

Jean-François Belzile explains his profession in two minutes.

As Jean-François Belzile described it, “Life at sea makes you dream, but day to day, that life is challenging. It’s best suited for people who are comfortable with themselves, who aren’t afraid of solitude, who don’t need to see their friends every day.”

What other qualities make a mariner competent and happy? “You have to like the technical and scientific aspects of things, especially physics, math and astronomy,” added the Port of Montreal’s new Harbour Master.

Since 2000, Jean-François Belzile has kept his feet on the ground. He worked for 10 years at Montreal Gateway Terminals, a partner of the Port of Montreal, where he was in charge of planning the loading of ocean-going container ships. In 2010, he became Director, Marine Operations at Shipping Federation of Canada, which represents 70 Canadian companies that operate, manage or act on behalf of more than 200 shipping lines around the world.

And what does Jean-François Belzile do in his spare time? Well, don’t look for him on land; he’s at the helm of his sailboat on Lake of Two Mountains!