Castaloop stevedores load girders destined for massive new Champlain Bridge on St. Lawrence River under construction at Montreal.
Castaloop stevedores load girders destined for massive new Champlain Bridge on St. Lawrence River under construction at Montreal.

Following extensive experience with a long-established stevedoring enterprise on the St. Lawrence River, Philip O’Brien decided last year that he wanted to break out on his own, anchored by two well-regarded industry partners in the region. So today, Castaloop, the first new stevedoring enterprise created in eastern Canada in several decades, is off and running.
“Focused on bulk and breakbulk cargo, Castaloop quickly found its niche in the handling of wind energy components in Port Hawkesbury (Nova Scotia) and then followed by several ongoing vessels at the (St. Lawrence) Port of Bécancour,” said O’Brien.

“Now, we are looking to broaden our profile by establishing a presence at a Great Lakes port,” he told the AJOT.


Due to what he termed “a shortage of competition” in the Canadian Great Lakes, St. Lawrence and Maritimes, O’Brien said “a need to develop an alternative service” constituted “the founding principle behind the launch of Castaloop.”

The stevedoring operation based in Quebec City was established late in 2016 through a partnership between Somavrac and Groupe Bellemare, both headquartered in Trois-Rivières, mid-way between Montreal and Quebec City on the St. Lawrence River.

Somavrac is engaged in handling dry and liquid cargo, storage, and the transport and distribution of chemical products. With seven divisions and 600 employees, Groupe Bellemare (incorporated in 1959) has a large trucking fleet that notably transports oversized loads and bulk concrete from three production factories.

Late in May of this year, Castaloop successfully carried out the loading of wind energy components on the Hansa Heavy Lift vessel, the M/V HHL Rhine, at the Port of Bécancour. It was the first in a series under a four-vessel contract, and followed the conclusion of a long-term, operating lease agreement with the Société du Parc Industriel et Portuaire de Bécancour.

The heavy lift ship arrived at Bécancour on the same day as the onset of a province-wide labor and construction strike. But the Castaloop team took the necessary measures to complete the cargo-handling moves.

Champlain Bridge

More recently, Castaloop handled at Ville St. Catherine on the St. Lawrence Seaway a number of girders destined for the massive new 2.3-mile long Champlain Bridge crossing the St. Lawrence River at Montreal that is under construction.

As one of the busiest crossings in Canada, the Champlain Bridge is a crucial continental corridor, with some 60 million vehicles and more than $20 billion in Canada-U.S. trade traversing it annually – second only to the Ambassador Bridge between Windsor and Detroit.

However, since being built in 1962, the Champlain Bridge’s structures have deteriorated substantially over the years, posing increasing safety concerns despite much repair operations.

Construction of the new, architecturally-stunning bridge is slated to be completed by December 2018. The construction site represents one of the largest current infrastructure projects in North America.