By Leo Ryan, Editor
The Claude A. Desgagnés, part of the general cargo and bulker fleet of Quebec City-based Groupe Desgagnés, is shipping some 400 containers from Montreal to Toronto via the St. Lawrence Seaway. A geared vessel that can load and unload containers when required, it departed yesterday. This follows an arrangement with MSC Canada in response to lingering congestion issues on the railway networks and at the ports of Montreal and Halifax following a series of docker strikes on the Montreal waterfront which caused vessel diversions.
While stressing the shipment was “definitely not a liner service,” Alexandre Beauchamp-Parent, President of Navigation Desgagnés, strongly hinted it represented more than a single-voyage, shortsea shipping initiative.
“We are always looking for creative solution opportunities and alternative options to transportation problems,” he told Maritime Magazine.
Mr. Beauchamp-Parent affirmed that evidence pointed to a business case “for continuing with other similar voyages” that could include containers coming back to Montreal. A second Montreal-Toronto voyage is presently under discussion for sometime in November.
“You need a lot of ingredients to make a good recipe – but there looks to be a good business case,” he said, adding: “It is quite a team effort between ourselves, MSC, the Port of Montreal, the Port of Toronto, Termont terminal, and Logistec. We are going to see if we can make this option grow.”
Shippers in the Toronto-Hamilton region (the so-called Golden Horseshoe) account for the biggest volume of the 1.7 million export and import containers handled at the Port of Montreal.
An industry source commented that “Desgagnés is capitalizing on a window of opportunity between now and the end of the Seaway season in late December. Also many of the containers being shipped are heavy load boxes more difficult to move by rail.”
Tony Boemi, VP Growth and Development for the Montreal Port Authority, said ”a primary purpose of the first voyage was to decongest Termont terminal. Otherwise, traffic flow is not yet quite back to normal at the Port of Montreal and the backlog could last another two weeks.”
Meanwhile, the Port of Montreal hailed the shipment, declaring: “This is the first time in over a decade that such a shipment has happened. In fact, the practice of container cabotage from Montreal to the Great Lakes has been abandoned since the early 1980s. A service was considered in 2009, but was quickly decommissioned in favour of transit by truck or rail.
Thanks to the collaboration between Mediterranean Shipping Company and Groupe Desgagnés, Ontario consumers and businesses can once again benefit from this shipping solution, which offers importers and exporters an alternative and often provides cost and time savings as well as a cleaner transportation solution.” (photo Port of Montreal)