SHIPPING NEWS: Is Port of Montreal’s loss Halifax’s gain?
Is the Port of Montreal in danger of losing business?
PSA Halifax picked up two MSC Container ships bound for Montreal that had diverted due to labour action by longshoremen at the Quebec port.
The MSC Veronique and MSC Sariska delivered several thousand containers to Halifax for delivery inland. The MSC Sariska was rerouted mid-Atlantic to Halifax; the MSC Veronique turned around and headed for Halifax while off Quebec City.
Normally, these ships would be spaced one week apart.
The longshoremen at the port in Montreal have been without a contract since 2018. The employer was looking to have them declared an essential service but were unsuccessful, leading to recent labour action that has so far consisted of two four-day strikes across the terminals.
The terminals also shut down for a day after a reported violent incident.
Ongoing labour strife at ports has been shown to cause ports to lose business. International Longshore and Warehouse Union actions on the West Coast have been blamed in part for traffic reductions to those ports.
While Montreal is central to the majority of Canada’s population, the Saint Lawrence River adds several days’ sailing time to schedules, and winter conditions are a frequent source of delays to ships, which are often not built to navigate unassisted in icy waters.
As well, the depth of the river restricts the size of ships that can call on Montreal. MSC is currently operating vessels in the 4000 20-foot equivalent unit range. Vessels up to 7000 teu can reach Montreal but only when not fully loaded.
It’s conceivable that containers delivered to Halifax and moved inland via CN Rail could reach their destinations sooner than had they been delivered direct to Montreal.
The port at Saint John is undergoing an expansion, and CP Rail recently reacquired a rail line it had sold to gain access to the port. A new terminal is being constructed in Quebec City, in partnership with CN.
Montreal will continue to be important based on its location, but it’s eastern competitors seem to be positioning themselves well to take some of that business.
MSC’s good experience in Halifax may be remembered when terminal contracts come up for renewal.
In other news:
- HMCS Harry DeWolf, Canada’s first-in-class Arctic and offshore patrol vessel, was delivered to the Royal Canadian Navy on Friday from Irving Shipbuilding. The ship will undergo additional trials and training before it is commissioned next summer.
- The USCGC Tahoma made a port visit Monday at the Halifax dockyard for fuel. The visit marks the first of a foreign warship to Halifax this year. The Tahoma will be participating in the 2020 edition of Operation Nanook, the annual Canadian Forces operation in the North. This year, the French, Danish and U.S. navies will also each have a participating ship. Due to COVID-19, the crew of the Tahoma were restricted to the ship, and Canadian personnel were not permitted to board.
- PSA Halifax put its new crane into service for the first time last weekend with the call of the CMA-CGM T. Jefferson. I have been told that the option for a second crane has been exercised but have not received official confirmation.
- The CCGS Hudson returned to the Bedford Institute of Oceanography after completing an extensive refit for the past year at NEWDOCK St. John’s Dockyard Ltd. Word from crew members is the work was well done, and the ship is in excellent shape.