A Second Port Dedicated Solely to Ocean Freight in Quebec

By Geneviève Cournoyer-Scalise August 21 2020

Since the work conflict occurred at the Port of Montreal facilities, many questions have been raised. “Do we need a second container port in Quebec?” is the new hot topic at present.

The Port of Montreal is currently one of the only two ports located on the East Coast of Canada including the one in Halifax. Of course, the right to strike is fundamental in Canada and no one questions it. However, this is not the only factor that can interfere with the proper functioning of port operations. When an unforeseen event occurs at the only container port in the province, the entire Canadian East Coast economy suffers.

During times of crisis, the impact of a slowdown or a complete shutdown at the Montreal port facilities disrupts thousands of businesses, not to mention the increase in transportation costs due to an overloaded railroad network busy relocating goods that have been redirected from Montreal to Halifax.

The Port of Quebec has already announced an expansion plan with its LAURENTIA project. According to les affaires magazine, a second ocean freight port in Quebec would reduce logistical risks and thus would limit disruptions affecting businesses for whom the movement of goods is a vital commercial activity.

What is the LAURENTIA Project?

Le projet LAURENTIA, qu’est-ce que c’est ?
Photomontage of the LAURENTIA project
Source: Port of Quebec
In December 2019, the Quebec Port Authority (QPA) announced its intention to extend its wharf line to establish a maritime terminal exclusively reserved for container transhipment. This new deep-water terminal, planned in the Baie de Beauport sector, would extend the current wharf line of the Port of Quebec by 610 metres. The 17-hectare area behind the wharf, with a capacity of 500k twenty-foot equivalent unit containers (TEUs) would connect to the existing railroad and highway networks for easy access.

According to those spearheading the project, the establishment of a new terminal in Quebec City has many advantages:

  • “Shortest route between Europe and the US Midwest, densely populated​​ and commercial area (110 million consumers).”
  • “Connection to intermodal transportation (continental railroad and North American highway network).”
  • “Competitive advantage: a new route to Asia that will help our companies to do business with China and other Southeast Asian countries.”
  • “During the construction phase, estimated at five years, the project will create 1,200 jobs per year. Once the infrastructure is in place, 1,100 additional permanent jobs will be generated, for a total gain of $100M in economic benefits.”

Obviously, the project requires major investments to consolidate development. The private sector would be invited to contribute 70% of the $190 million needed for the construction of infrastructure. Then, a second contribution around $250 to $400 million would be anticipated for the establishment of the facilities on-site. Learn more about the project on the Port of Quebec website.

For some, this major project seems to be a viable and lucrative solution for the years to come for the provincial capital, as this approach would contribute to the sustainable development of the entire province of Quebec.

Others believe that a second terminal could lead to new tensions between Montreal and Quebec port management, or that employer/union stakeholders in the two cities will join forces in order to call a general lockout or to start a strike in both ports simultaneously as possible pressure tactics.

And you? Are you in favour or against the establishment of a port dedicated solely to ocean freight in Quebec?

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