Port Montreal set for a makeover
Of late, the Montreal Port Authority has been attracting attention from institutional investors. The port’s largest two container terminals were sold in March to a consortium of Quebec investors for an estimated $650 million.
A world-class marine facility that contributes significantly to the economic development of Greater Montreal and Quebec, every year, approximately 28 million tonnes of goods pass through the Port of Montreal, aggregating $41 billion. Located 1,600 kilometres inland, the Port of Montreal provides access to 110 million Canadian and American consumers. Connected to more than 80 countries worldwide, the port is Canada’s leading port on the East Coast for traffic between Europe and North America’s industrial heartland.
In January 2015, the port received a $132-million makeover to handle the expected increase in exports to the European market. Federal Infrastructure Minister Denis Lebel announced that Ottawa will provide $43.7 million to the project. The port is expected to contribute the remainder of the money, which is expecting more business as a result of the recently signed free trade deal between Canada and the European Union. The money will go toward deepening mooring posts, facilitating the circulation of trucks and increasing the port’s capacity to handle containers.
“This substantial financial contribution from the federal government’s New Building Canada Fund will provide significant help in positioning the Port of Montréal to fully profit from growth opportunities in marine transportation in the coming years, particularly in the context of the implementation of the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA). Optimizing our container-handling capacity and improving our marine and road access will hugely benefit our clients and partners here and elsewhere, not to mention the Canadian economy,” said Sylvie Vachon, President and Chief Executive Officer, Montréal Port Authority.
In March, the port hit headlines again after Morgan Stanley’s infrastructure investment unit sold its biggest container terminal to a consortium led by Fiera Axium Infrastructure after being owners for eight years. Fiera Axium, an independent portfolio management firm focused on infrastructure investments in Canada and the United States, joined co-operative Desjardins Group, financial services provider Manulife, labour fund Fonds de solidarité FTQ and Industrial Alliance to buy the facility, known as Montreal Gateway Terminals. “Montreal Gateway Terminals represents an essential infrastructure asset” so fits with Fiera Axium’s investment strategy, Stéphane Mailhot, president of Fiera Axium, said in a statement. “We look forward to partnering with the port and other key stakeholders to promote the Port of Montreal’s status as an international trade hub.”
Montreal Gateway Terminals is the largest container terminal operator at the Port of Montreal, running two of the port’s three international terminals and servicing seven global shipping lines, according to a statement by the buyers. Last year it handled 800,000 twenty-foot equivalent units, representing 58 per cent of all containers handled at the port.
The port handled a record 30 million tonnes of cargo last year, up 7 per cent, making it the fifth-largest on the east coast of North America. Growth in container traffic was modest at 5.6 per cent, reflecting the slowdown in world trade, but was healthy for petroleum and grain. Grain container operator CanEst opened a new facility last fall that adds new value to the port’s service offering. The port also docked cruise ships carrying about 70,000 passengers who provided a big boost to Montreal’s hotel, restaurant and entertainment industry. In the past, the port marketed itself as an efficient connection to markets in the U.S. Midwest. While that remains true, new markets are opening up around the world.
After Vancouver, Montreal is the largest container port in Canada and the fifth largest on North America’s east coast. At the same time, 48 cruise ships stopped there in 2014, carrying about 72,000 passengers and crew. The proposed upgrades will include expanding the port’s container capacity, deepening vessel berths and improving truck traffic flow in and out of the port. A remarkable 2,500 trucks pass through the port daily.