By Leo Ryan, AJOT What a difference, indeed, a year makes. Latest indicators confirm that world trade is rebounding, benefiting much of Canada’s maritime sector, including its East Coast ports, despite signs of weakening recovery in North America and parts of western Europe. The current outlook also points to a deepwater port on the St. Lawrence River  soon climbing up the ranks to the number two spot for total cargo among all Canadian ports – thanks to a substantial new trade connection with China (see separate report). On the St. Lawrence River, the Port of Montreal is bouncing back from a 12% decline in 2009 total traffic to 24.5 million metric tons and a 15.4% drop in container cargo to 11.3 million tons in 2009. In the first six months of this year, Montreal’s overall traffic was up nearly 8% compared to the same period last year. The two main drivers of the growth were container traffic and iron ore. The increase in container traffic to 670,128 TEUs over the first six months brought Montreal back to the 2007 level for the same period while last year at this time the port was below its 2005 container level, indicated Sylvie Vachon, President and CEO of the Montreal Port Authority. In this regard, Kevin Doherty, Chief Executive of Montreal Gateway Terminals Partnership, said rebounding box trade began to be felt last fall, with flat trade with Europe offset to a certain degree by growing trade with Latin America and the Far East. In early June, the federal government announced it will fund half of the $10 million cost of maximizing capacity of the Cast container terminal  at the Port of Montreal. The Montreal Port Authority will cover the remaining costs. Expanding the capacity of the terminal will allow for the accommodation of two vessels simultaneously of 280-300 metrers in length. For its part, the Port of Quebec, the leading bulk transshipment gateway to the Great Lakes, is fighting hard to recapture lost ground after seeing its total volume plunge by about 20% in 2009 to 21 million tons in the wake of a record throughput of 27.2 million tons in 2008. Biggest negative factor in 2009 was the dramatic drop in solid bulk tonnages, especially iron ore, related to the sharp downturn in the Great Lakes steel industry in both the United States and Canada. Ross Gaudreault, who will be retiring at the end of this year as President and CEO of the Quebec Port Authority after two decades at the helm, sees certain bulk cargoes starting to recover as 2010 progresses. In early August, there was an important announcement on special service arrangement aimed at strengthening the port’s competitiveness. The Port of Quebec, IMTT and CN announced an arrangement that will reduce transit times to Toronto by 30%. The transit times for shipments destined for Toronto have been reduced from 53 hours to 38 hours as a result of the port and IMTT (International Matex Tank Terminals) agreeing to more consistent release times and of CN adjusting schedules to expedite the flow of traffic over its network between Quebec City and Toronto. Air Canada jet fuel arrives by ship at the IMTT terminal and is then shipped by CN to a fuel terminal near Toronto’s Lester B. Pearson International Airport. “Thanks to CN, the Toronto and the U.S. Midwest markets are more accessible than ever before by rail for both the port and its partner terminal operators,” said Gaudreault. For the Port of Halifax, the outlook for 2010 represents a significant improvement over 2009, thanks in part to the recent arrival of new shipping customers and service strings. Amidst the global recession, Halifax saw its total cargo decline in 2009 by 6.2% to 9.64 million tons, while container volume fell by 11% to 344,811 TEUs. During the first half of this year, there was a strong increase in container, breakbulk and ro/ro volumes, whereas bulk cargo declined. Box throughput between January and end June climbed by 35% to 205,000 TEUs. But the port acknowledged that “cargo volumes have a lon