Port MTL: Dock Strike Sends Ships, Trains To PSJ, HFX, NYNJ

CUPE Local 375 and Sympathizers Strike Container Terminals. Government Stays Out of it

07.August, Montreal QC — The Canadian Union of Public Employees Local 375’s 1125 members launched an indefinite strike against the two Termont-operated container terminals at the port, starting on Monday, 10.August. The International Longshoremen Association joined the strike on 08. August. The unions say the action follows a breakdown in negotiations with the Association des Employeurs Maritimes since 05.July. Negotiations have been stalled principally over the issue of work schedules. The current agreement expired 31.Dec.2018 {Global News}

The unlimited strike action comes after CUPE struck twice in the last two weeks for four-day stints (27-31.July and 03-07.Aug) at specific terminals. During the limited strikes, CUPE members refused to provide mooring services, except for supplies to Newfoundland and Labrador and for grain and liquid bulk vessels, in compliance with Canada Industrial Relations Board 09.June decision.

The strike targets two of the port’s five container terminals, Maisonneuve and Viau, both operated by Termont. The Cast, Racine, and Bickerdike terminals will continue to function as normal.

Canadian Ministers of Labour and Transportation are urging the parties to work out a new agreement on their own, and do not plan to have the federal government intervene {Canadian Press, 10.Aug.20}

Following the harassment against Termont management staff engaged in replacement work, Termont and Montreal Gateway Terminals (MGT) shut down their operations for one day on July 31 {Leo Ryan, Maritime Magazine, 03.Aug.2020}

Vessels diverted

Since Monday, 03.August, eight ships scheduled to unload at Port of Montreal have been diverted to other ports including Halifax NS, Saint John NB, and New York/New Jersey.

Rail service has also been diverted to meet those vessels. CN has already begun moving traffic on the established intermodal trains, 120 and 121, between Halifax and Montreal. Additional trains could be added to handle the increased traffic, when the need arises.

CP has begun dedicated intermodal service to the Port of Saint John for the first time in 25 years, utilizing the recently-acquired CMQ property and partner, New Brunswick Southern.

Halterm Port Diversions

(NOTE: One of these ships is carrying three 40-ft flat rack containers with over-dimensional loads that cannot be moved on rail from Halifax to Montreal {Ian Putzger, The Loadstar, 05.Aug.2020}).

  • MSC ROCHELLE, due 08.August
  • Hapag-Lloyd MONTREAL EXPRESS, due 11.August
  • OOCL BELGIUM, due 15.August
  • Hapag-Lloyd GENOA EXPRESS, due 16.August

Saint John Diversions

  • Hapag-Lloyd DETROIT EXPRESS, due Saint John on 8.August
  • Maersk PATRAS, due Saint John on 14.August

NYNJ Diversions

  • MSC SARISKA
  • MSC VERONIQUE

Another blow for Port of Montreal

The strike could pose a serious threat to Port of Montreal’s long-term prospects. Up to half of its cargo is “discretionary,” that is to say chosen by the shipper among competing options. A reputation for unreliability could diminish Montreal’s advantage over other ports. {Peter Tirschwell, JOC, 06.Aug.2020}.

The port was also substantially affected by the CN strike in late 2019, and the First Nations blockades in January and February. Port of Quebec’s Laurentia project is expected to challenge for Montreal traffic.