By Leo Ryan, Editor
Just last summer, as the global pandemic was gathering momentum and the Montreal waterfront was hit by a series of docker strikes, the Port of Montreal was forecasting an approximate 13% plunge in total and container cargo for all of 2020. But as the exceptionally difficult year comes to a close, the final numbers are looking better – at least on the container front.
“The container business is showing a 6% decline, which is a great result considering we faced a rail blockage (in the winter), a strike which lasted 17 days, and the pandemic,” Tony Boemi, Vice-President, Growth and Development, told Maritime Magazine. Container traffic has rebounded significantly in the past few months.
In 2019, Montreal’s container throughput attained a record 1.75 million TEUs while total cargo also reached a summit of 40.6 million tonnes.
Reviewing January to November cumulative volumes, Mr. Boemi noted a 24% drop in liquid bulk – “primarily due to lower consumption due to people working from home.
There has been a 19% drop on bulk commodities, excluding grain. “Iron ore was hard hit by the strikes and this was the main contributor to the overall downturn. Salt was also down, although I am not sure why as they will need salt for the winter.”
On grain, the port began the year with an 18% plunge due to the rail blockage. “But there has been a strong recovery and we are now showing only a 3% decline compared to last year.”
Cruise operations were a total write-off in 2020 due to the severe Covid-related restrictions.
“In summary,” concluded Mr. Boemi, “we anticipate finishing off the year with about 35 million tonnes of total cargo compared to our 40 million plus last year, or about 12 to 13% down. The good news (for 2021) is the trend of strong recovery on containers, grain, iron ore and maybe, still a long shot, a resumption of the cruise business in the 4th quarter of 2021. The only commodity which may have a delayed recovery is petroleum.” (photo Port of Montreal)