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A step forward for Contrecoeur

Montreal’s new box terminal takes a step forward with an MOU with Canada’s infrastructure funding agency.

The Canada Infrastructure Bank (CIB) has announced that it will work with the Montreal Port Authority (MPA) to advance the development of a new container terminal in Contrecoeur, Montreal.

The CIB was set up by the Canadian federal government as an independent Crown corporation to focus on “transformational projects that are revenue-generating and in the public interest”. Its stated priorities include public transit, trade and transportation, green infrastructure and broadband.

The CIB is mandated to use C$35 billion in federal funding to attract private sector and institutional investment. It was not intended to fund whole projects itself, but provide federal support to initiatives that would not proceed if left fully to the market.

A new box terminal at Contrecoeur near Montreal is such a project. The MPA has already announced that it will “work in priority” with its terminal operators, Montreal Gateway Terminals Partnership (MGTP) and Termont Montreal Inc., to develop Contrecoeur. However, the project is unlikely to proceed with out significant government funding.

At the same time the Quebec Port Authority (QPA) is pushing to develop a deep water terminal at Quebec City, and is also seeking public funds.

The MOU does not guarantee that federal funding will be forthcoming for Contrecoeur. The MPA’s announcement said that the MOU “confirms that CIB and MPA will work on the financial structuring of the proposed terminal" and that this "could lead to an investment in the project, subject to all standard due diligence and decision making”.

Nevertheless the MPA sees the announcement as a key step in progressing Contrecoeur. "This commitment by the Canada Infrastructure Bank is a key milestone in the progress of our project towards its completion,” said Sylvie Vachon, President and CEO of the Montreal Port Authority. “This collaboration with this new partner confirms the national importance of our project, whose purpose is to support the growth of international trade for Canada."

The Québec Port Authority (QPA), however, believes “that there is a need for a deepwater container terminal in the St.Lawrence to service Québec, Ontario and the Midwest,” and it has partnered with Hutchison Ports and CN rail to develop a new terminal called Laurentia at Quebec City. When that announcement was made the QPA said it was engaged in “ongoing discussions with the federal and provincial governments to complete the financing”, but no details have been made public at this stage.

Both ports will be lobbying for financial funds, and it is unlikely the CIB would invest in two terminals competing for the same business. A terminal at Quebec City would have the advantage of being able to handle significantly bigger vessels as the site has a water depth of 16m, compared to the 11.3m depth in the St Lawrence river channel. However, Montreal is some 200km further inland, closer to the markets Laurentia wants to serve.

From left to right: Rachel Bendayan, member of parliament for Outremont, Pierre Lavallée, President and CEO of the Canada Infrastructure Bank and Sylvie Vachon, President and CEO of the Montreal Port Authority at the announcement in Montreal.

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