Port of Montreal well prepared for increase in container activity


The Port of Montreal is planning the increase in its container capacity to keep pace with the expected upswing in traffic resulting from the free trade agreement between Canada and the European Union. Three key words: Viau, Maisonneuve and Contrecoeur.

The new economic and trade agreement between Canada and the European Union will have a strong impact on the Port of Montreal’s container-handling capacity in the years to come.

The Montreal Port Authority (MPA) is well aware of the fact that it will need to have sufficient facilities capable of handling this expected increase in activity, as well as the greater amount of containers that the port already is handling from transshipment services via the Suez and Panama canals.

To prepare for this traffic hike, the MPA invested an unprecedented $55 million in its infrastructure in 2013, surpassing its previous record of $41 million set four years earlier. Container-handling capacity at the port, which moved 1.4 million TEUs (20-foot equivalent unit containers) last year, has been increased by 13 %, to 1.7 million TEUs from 1.5 million TEUs, through the redevelopment of land in the Viau and Maisonneuve sectors.

The Viau sector site, which covers 16,5 hectares, boasts en annual container storage
capacity of 150,000 TEUs.

Viau and Maisonneuve

The Viau sector site, which covers 16.5 hectares, boasts an annual container storage capacity of 150,000 TEUs. As part of the redevelopment project, railway tracks were relocated and sewer and water systems, lighting and the underground electrical network were restructured in order to fully optimize operations at the site.

Meanwhile, space for another 50,000 TEUs was added at the Maisonneuve sector. The site also features a new longshoremen’s hall and a new parking area and maintenance garage for equipment and vehicles used by longshoremen. Transport Canada contributed $15.1 million to the Viau and Maisonneuve projects.


En 2010, the MPA established a 10-year action plan to guide the Contrecoeur development.

As impressive as these projects are, they represent only the tip of the iceberg for the Port of Montreal. Its major container terminal expansion is slated for land that the port owns along four kilometres of waterfront at Contrecoeur, located about 40 kilometres downstream from its facilities on the island of Montreal.

“Within the context of the new Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, as well as opportunities that have arisen through transshipment services, our vision to expand the port to our land at Contrecoeur has taken on added significance,” said Sylvie Vachon, the MPA’s president and CEO.

The MPA realized as far back as the mid-1970s that its land on the island of Montreal, which is sandwiched between the city and the St. Lawrence River, would one day reach full capacity. With great forethought, it conducted early in the 1980s exhaustive studies of various sites and options for future container terminal expansion. Purchasing the land at Contrecoeur, where a bulk terminal and rail and road infrastructure already had existed since the mid-1950s, was the clear-cut choice.

A project of this magnitude requires careful planning and consultation, and in 2010 the MPA established a 10-year action plan to guide the Contrecoeur development.

A master plan for the expansion already is in place. The port has undertaken environmental studies related to marine wildlife and benthic animals at the site. It has conducted studies on ways to undertake dredging operations and, in turn, reuse dredged material.

Currently, the MPA is preparing a project description as required by the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act (CEAA), proceeding with steps to secure permits under the federal Fisheries Act and the Species at Risk Act, preparing a request for a change in its letters patent for the occupation of submerged shore lots, and establishing a communications plan and consultative process for stakeholders.

“The success of each one of these steps is essential for this project to materialize,”Sylvie Vachon said. “In the context of an economic upturn and a flourishing economy, and if all of these milestones are met, we would hope to begin construction in 2018-19 and have a container terminal operating at Contrecoeur  around 2021.”