By Leo Ryan, AJOTAmidst the current global economic downturn and volatile financial markets, terminal operators on Canada’s East Coast and Great Lakes are striving to hold a steady course to maintain their competitiveness and to preserve their cargo markets. The trend, however, points to at least a moderate decline, notably in bulk movements, while it remains to be seen whether the buoyant trend in the region’s leading container port, Montreal, which relies heavily on US Midwest and Northeast business, will not be significantly affected. Bulk transshipments, for instance, constitute the biggest sector for the Port of Quebec that handled a record 26.8 million metric tons in 2007. And Ross Gaudreault, President and CEO of the Quebec Port Authority, recently forecast another record of 28 million tons for 2008. The short-term outlook for IMTT-Quebec, which boasts Canada’s largest liquid bulk terminal, has shifted from up to down. This terminal is a major supplier of jet fuel to Toronto’s Pearson International Airport and also serves markets in the United States. In June of this year, IMTT-Québec completed the biggest expansion of its history through the completion of construction of the last two reservoirs of a series of seven at a cost of C$26.2 million. The storage capacity of the terminal, has, as a result, been increased by 56%. Last year marked another record, thanks to more than 2.37 million tons handled at IMTT-Québec, representing a 1% increase over 2006. “2008 began with a sharp increase for the first four months, but the impact of the US recession began to be felt in the second quarter and has continued to affect volumes handled up till now,” Marc Dulude, Executive VP of IMTT-Québec, said in an interview. The leading cargo-handling enterprise at Quebec is St. Lawrence Stevedoring (SLS) which this year is celebrating its 100th anniversary. Today, Panamax and Cape-size ships call at the SLS Beauport Flats terminal. The latter symbolizes the port’s stature as North America’s deepwater gateway to the Great Lakes and the Midwest. Various bulk commodities transported to the terminal on ocean vessels are transshipped onto so-called Lakers which can navigate through the St. Lawrence Seaway channels and locks into the industrial heartland of North America. SLS is a division of Quebec Stevedoring Company, which operates facilities in some 20 ports in the Great Lakes/St. Lawrence region, including Hamilton and Chicago. Last year, throughput at the SLS terminal soared by over 40% to 8 million tons. Until the global economic crisis hit, a figure of nine million tons was being advanced for 2008. Over the past 10 years, SLS has invested more than $100 million in new equipment and technology. There has been no labor disruption since 1998, and presently a long-term collective agreement reinforces waterfront stability. The main commodities that transit through the SLS terminal include alumina, zinc, copper and nickel concentrates, iron ore, scrap metal, raw sugar, coal products and salt. Open year-round, the terminal has 1,120 meters of berth space with the water depth alongside of up to 15.5 meters (51 feet). The facilities are not only specialized in handling dry bulk cargo, but are also viewed as the most versatile in eastern North America. Their extensive transshipment capabilities, ship-to-ship transfers and vast interior and exterior storage space make it possible to handle 100,000 tons of cargo a day. Ship-to-ship transfers can take only a few hours. The terminal is equipped with six mobile gantry cranes, a pneumatic unloader, conventional and fluidized conveyers, automated stacking systems, a ship loader and an array of heavy machinery such as wheel-mounted loaders, hydraulic shovels and crawler tractors. After transshipment, the quays and equipment are cleaned thoroughly to prevent contamination from different products. Late in the autumn, customers from the Midwest can store bulk materials at SLS in order to supply overseas clients throughou