As early winter’s deepest freeze in many years hampered normal shipping operations on the St. Lawrence River, the Port of Montreal announced record performances in 2017 total and container cargo. The occasion was the special annual ceremony on Jan. 3 honouring the captain of the first ocean-going vessel to reach the port in the new year.
Montreal Port Authority (MPA) president and CEO Sylvie Vachon awarded the famous Gold-Headed Cane to Captain Rakesh Kumar, Master of the 2808-TEU Ottawa Express containership operated by Hapag-Lloyd. The 40,079 DWTvessel has an ice-reinforced hull typical of the liner services engaged in the St. Lawrence trades and had no major problems on the river to reach Montreal from the Atlantic Ocean.
Some other ships were not as fortunate in trying to plough through accumulating ice in the Gulf of St. Lawrence and parts of the St. Lawrence River. Moreover, several Canadian Coast Guard icebreakers in the Quebec City region had mechanical problems.
According to unaudited preliminary results, Canada’s second-biggest port after Vancouver handled close to 38 million metric tons in total 2017 traffic, representing an increase of nearly 7% from 2016 while container volume rose by 5.7% to 13.8 million tons. This translated into 1.46 million TEUs.
A major player in North Atlantic container cargo, Montreal serves strategic markets in Central Canada and the U.S. Midwest.
The Ottawa Express left the Port of Liverpool, England, on December 21. It crossed the Port of Montreal‘s limits on January 1, 2018 at 11:55 am.
“I want to congratulate Captain Rakesh Kumar and the entire crew of the Ottawa Express, who braved the ice and cold on the St. Lawrence River to make it safely to their destination. The arrival of Captain Kumar and his container ship is a great reminder at the start of this new year that container handling is part of the Port of Montreal’s DNA and has been growing here for over 50 years,” said Vachon.
The Gold-Headed Cane Ceremony, a tradition for 179 years, kicks off a new year of activity at the Port of Montreal. In the past, the first ship arrived at the Port in the early spring, after the break-up and thawing of ice on the St. Lawrence River. In present times, awarding the Gold-Headed Cane is a reminder that the Port of Montreal has been open year round since 1964.
At the Port of Montreal, there has not been a single day lost to shipping due to the presence of too much ice in the St. Lawrence channel since 1998. The last great paralysis to hit Montreal occurred in February 1993 when the worst ice jams in two decades formed in the channels leading to the port. More than 40 vessels were imprisoned for four weeks in a formidable juggernaut that five Coast Guard icebreakers could not tame.