In a striking move, the Quebec Port Authority has announced plans to build a container terminal at the site of the Beauport 2020 project to significantly boost its role as a key gateway in the Great Lakes/St. Lawrence corridor. Industry observers see it as a challenge to the Port of Montreal, which for decades has dominated St. Lawrence River container business following the departure of CP Ships (later acquired by Hapag-Lloyd) from the Port of Quebec to the Port of Montreal.
It is the culmination of a lengthy process to identify economic niches with the highest potential for the port’s future growth. The ambitious proposed undertaking entails a C$400 million investment to develop a 610-metre extension of the wharf line, a 17-hectare area behind the wharf, and links to existing rail and road networks.
For a long period, the Port of Quebec’s core business has been in bulk commodities. Much of it involves iron ore, grain and other exports shipped via the Great Lakes/Seaway corridor to Quebec for transshipment onto large ocean vessels for overseas destinations. Annual throughput is about 25 million metric tons.
Speaking to the Quebec City Chamber of Commerce and Industry on Dec. 12, Port President and CEO Mario Girard asserted that the Port of Quebec has all the strategic advantages to carry out this major project, including a water depth of 15 metres and full intermodality. He pointed out that the 2016 opening of an enlarged Panama Canal and the emergence of next generation ships requiring deep water ports has completely changed the landscape of commercial shipping.
Financing details were not disclosed. But Quebec City Mayor Régis Labeaume urged the governments of Québec and Canada to “offer their unmitigated support for the project so that Quebec and Eastern Canada can compete with big U.S. ports and to make the Port of Québec Europe’s gateway to trade in North America.”
The new 15-metre (50-foot) standard makes it harder for the St. Lawrence waterway, as it currently stands, to compete with American ports in the container market, said Girard.
He stated that Quebec’s unique features offer “a competitive alternative in the St. Lawrence.”
“Quebec City,” he continued, “must get on board and leverage its strategic geographic location on the shortest route between Europe and the St. Lawrence-Great Lakes region, which is home to over 40% of the U.S. manufacturing industry.
“Our vision is simple: make Quebec City a hub for maritime logistics on the continent. We’ll succeed by rallying around this promising project. And in this vein, I am reaching out to all stakeholders in the St. Lawrence so we can all work together to promote the St. Lawrence. More than ever, we must join forces to make the St. Lawrence more competitive.”