Congestion At East Coast Ports Could Be Montreal's Benefit

Maritime cargo is so congested in U.S. eastern seaboard ports like New York’s and New Jersey’s that some of that traffic is bound to come to Montreal according to incoming president.

Michael Fratianni, the incoming president of Montreal Gateway Terminals Partnership, the largest cargo container handler at the Port of Montreal, told The Montreal Gazette in this article that all of the congestion that some U.S. Ports are experiencing along the East Coast could turn out to be a huge boon for business For Montreal, adding that  “cargo shippers and beneficial cargo owners (importers) need to have a little bit clearer understanding that if a box arrives in Montreal on a Monday, it will get to Chicago on the Wednesday, for example — 48 hours later.”

“When we compare ourselves to our competitors up and down the U.S. east coast, that’s not necessarily the case. At the New York and New Jersey ports, there’s serious congestion," said Fratianni. “That’s becoming more and more of an issue — more and more of these boxes (piling up on docks), too much cargo going through the same scenario."

“So some of that cargo will eventually have to come north to us. And from here we can provide intermodal connections (onto trucks or railways). Our railways have developed strong networks over the last 25, 30 years into the U.S. Midwest.”

Shipments into and from Canada account for 65 percent of Montreal Gateway Terminals’ business, and the U.S. the other 35 percent — mostly the Midwest.

Lenis Rodrigues, spokesperson for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, agreed that congestion has become a major problem at the ports, but attributed it to the unusually harsh winter.

“It’s been very difficult for us because of all the days we took off because of the chill, the snow — in December, January and February,” Rodrigues noted. “It’s caused us to get really backed up.”

But the Port Authority has taken drastic measures to burn down the backlog of containers that have been sitting on the docks at both facilities, she said, including hiring 150 additional longshoremen, 75 (cargo) checkers and added 2,000 chassis, vehicles to move the containers.

“Cargo moves,” each representing loading or off-loading one container, have accelerated from a trough of 36,000 per week in February to about 60,000 a week now.

She couldn’t say what the backlog is.

But the dwell time — the time cargo sits on the dock before being trans-shipped — also peaked at about 8.1 days in January but is now down to about 6 days. The normal average dwell time is 4.2 days, Rodrigues said.

Fratianni said freight shipped to Montreal would make its way to its final destination in half that time.

Rodrigues could not say how long it would take a container shipped to either U.S. port to reach Chicago, for instance.

Montreal Gateway Terminals is wholly owned by MGT Holdings S.à.r.l., a subsidiary of Morgan Stanley Infrastructure Partners, a group within the Wall St. investment firm.

Fratianni said “it’s a fund that invests in infrastructure throughout the globe.”

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