September 26: Ports and Shipping

Keeping Commerce Moving on the Banks of the St. Lawrence – Tour of the Port of Montreal


Nearly 1,000 miles inland from the Atlantic Ocean, the Port of Montreal sits along the shortest direct route from Europe and the Mediterranean to North America. As an international container port, it serves Toronto, central Canada and the U.S. Midwest and Northeast regions as goods like cereal grains, petroleum products and cruise ship passengers move up and down the St. Lawrence and out to the Atlantic. We spent the morning meeting with the Montreal Port Authority and touring its facilities as we got the chance to see how a port operates, learn what goods make up its prime commodities and hear about how it has outgrown its Montreal riverfront property. The port is in the midst of a $750 million expansion to grow its container handling capacity and stay competitive with large American ports. As an interesting sidebar, part of this expansion plan involves some environmental impact “banking” and the creation of a large island wildlife preserve on the river.

Shipping on the St. Lawrence

We’d heard from the folks that receive all of the ships moving up and down the Seaway, so next we turned our attention to what it takes to manage those fleets. A representative of Fednav, Canada’s largest ocean-going dry-bulk shipping company, met with us to talk about the logistics of modern international trade and the Great Lakes’ maritime industry’s recent report on its economic impact. According to the report published earlier this year, cargo moving on the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Seaway supported 237, 868 jobs and brought in $35 billion (U.S.) to the U.S. and Canadian economies. We also learned how the industry is adopting protocols and investing in new technologies to help prevent the spread of invasive species, lower their fuel consumption and carbon footprint, and accommodate new best practices for avoiding other impacts like whale collisions.