Vessels that sail into the Port of Montreal rely on their local ship suppliers for provisions. Their needs know no bounds!
Going through the doors of Clipper Ship Supply’s 3,280-square-metre warehouse is something like entering Ali Baba’s cave. There are bags and boxes from floor to ceiling filled with such items as foodstuffs, equipment, ropes and flags of all colours. “We have everything that a seafarer could possibly think of,” said owner Craig Bishop proudly.
The Clipper Ship Supply sign is well known to passersby who take the small bridge on Mill St. to reach the port and the Victoria Bridge. For more than 40 years the company has been supplying ships that dock in the port. Seagulf Marine Industries, a stone’s throw away on Mill St., between the locks and Windmill Point basin, is also located close to its clients.
“This is our third location. “At first, we were in a building on Youville Square in the 1950s, then a warehouse on de la Commune St.,” said Seagulf president Robert Zeagman.
When ships arrive in port after several days at sea, they need to restock; that includes everything from pharmaceutical items to maintenance products such as cleaners, oils and lubricants. They might even need repairs, new equipment or replacement parts. The ships contact their supplier a few days before arriving in port – they have one in each port that they call – and place their order. They rely on their supplier to find everything – yes, everything – that they require. On the day that we met with Craig Bishop, he was looking for a five-tonne anchor that had to be delivered three days later!
Something for everyone
Ships that visit the Port of Montreal sail from the four corners of the earth. They have many – and sometimes surprising – needs. For example, U.S. ships need equipment that is measured in feet and inches, while the rest of the world uses the metric system. Japanese ships have electrical systems that are different from all others.
Tools and hardware have different standards from one country to another. You have to be well prepared and you need to know where you can find anything … even ice-breaking hammers for sailors from the South who are not accustomed to Quebec winters. Indian crews want their spices. Asian sailors want their noodles. Seafarers from the Mediterranean want their olive oil. The Russians want their sauces. And so on and so forth. “Luckily, Montreal is an international city where we can find food from around the world. It’s more difficult in other ports, such as those on the Great Lakes, for example,” Zeagman said.
Robert Zeagman, co-propriétaire de Seagulf
To satisfy their customers’ needs, suppliers such as Seagulf and Clipper do business with thousands of their own suppliers, many of which are in other countries. Bishop said he has some 20,000 suppliers. In order to simplify his customers’ orders, he has created a catalogue in which each item has a code.
“The main thing that clients are looking for from their supplier is reliability,” Zeagman said. “The second is availability.” The most difficult thing is to ensure service 24 hours a day, seven days a week. A petroleum tanker can dock at midnight and leave only a few hours later … after it takes on fresh supplies.
Craig Bishop, co-proprétaire de Clipper
While it’s not a 9-to-5 type of job, the profession nevertheless seems to be contagious. Bishop got his first taste of it at the age of 12 at Monstad, a company that belonged to his father, Lloyd.
Today, Craig leads Clipper with his brother Keith, and they hope that one day an offspring will take over.
At Seagulf, Robert took over from his father, who started the company in 1958. Robert’s brother Brian, also a shareholder, manages the office in St. Catharines, Ontario, and his son Alexander, 27, a mechanical engineer, has also joined the company. They’ve all got the bug!