By Leo Ryan, AJOTFor terminal operators in ports across Canada, these are difficult times as the Canadian economy slowly nurses itself back to health from the global recession and world economies show tentative signs of recovery. Trends at the cargo-handling facilities on the east and west coasts tell a similar story - with volume down sharply in the dry bulk, breakbulk and container sectors. On the other hand, liquid bulk and grain shipping have seen increases while average overall tonnage has declined between 15% and 20% at various Canadian ports in the period to this fall. As far as cargo-handling firms on the West Coast are concerned, much hinges on revived, sustained demand for commodity products from Asia, especially China and Japan. On the East Coast, the apparent recent end of economic contraction in such European countries as Germany and France holds promise for better days ahead as 2010 moves forward. On the other hand, brisk demand from the United States, Canada’s chief trading partner by far, remains a work in progress. On the Great Lakes/St. Lawrence Seaway system, the situation remains preoccupying due to the dramatic decline of steel imports as a result of the crisis in the automobile and steel industries in Canada as well as in the United States. Indeed, as one shipping executive observed, “it’s the worst year of the Seaway system in memory for shipping and terminal operations.” Cumulative 2009 traffic to the end of October on the St. Lawrence Seaway was down nearly 10 million metric tons – totaling 23.2 million tons from 34 million tons a year ago. Ship transits for the period stood at 2,804 versus 3,561. On the plus side, at least Canada has weathered the recession and financial upheaval better than other industrialized states. Following an estimated drop in GDP this year of 2.4%, the Canadian economy is forecast to gain traction, with growth approaching 3% in 2010 and 3.3% in 2011. East Coast horizons On the St. Lawrence River, the Port of Quebec, a key bulk transshipment gateway to the Great Lakes, has seen its throughput plunge by about 20% in the first nine months of this year. This follows a record performance of more than 27.2 million tons in 2008. Local stevedoring firms have been compelled to lay off an unspecified number of their dock workers. “Grain and liquid bulk have been up, but iron ore and everything else related to the steel industries has been hit hard,” a Quebec port spokesman told AJOT. At the Port of Montreal, total traffic in the first six months of 2009 fell by 15.4% to 10.9 million tons versus a year-earlier, while container cargo decreased by 14.6% to 620,000 TEUs. Kevin Doherty, chief executive of Montreal Gateway Terminals Partnership, reports that the biggest container terminal operator at the port has experienced a drop in volume, but the bottom appeared to have been reached in June. He said the decline in container business with Europe has been offset to a certain degree by growing maritime trade with Latin America and Asia. “We are seeing signs of a gradual recovery and in the meantime we are focusing on keeping costs in line,” Doherty said. Based in Montreal, Logistec Stevedoring, a major division of Logistec Corporation, provides container, breakbulk and bulk handling at 23 ports in Eastern Canada, the Great Lakes and the US East Coast. Facilities are to be found at such ports as Montreal, Quebec, Sept-Iles, Sorel, Toronto, Halifax, Saint John, New Haven, CT and Port Manatee, Florida. Late in October, this network was expanded through the strategic acquisition of Les Terminaux Rideau Bulk Terminals Inc., company specializing in handling road salt at four ports between Montreal and Toronto and two inland terminals in the Ottawa region. For the first mine months of 2009, Logistec Corp. revenue from continuing operation