The decision has prompted carriers to levy a ‘Low Water’ surcharge as the larger vessels can no longer call at the port with a full load of laden containers. Hapag-Lloyd is first to announce the levy, which will take effect from 5 August on its Canada-Med service (JMCS A) and its Canada-North Europe services (SLCS 1/SLCS 2). The other main carriers – Maersk, CMA CGM, MSC and OOCL – on the Europe-Montreal routes are expected to follow suit.
However, this year carriers have the option of carrying additional cargo without increasing the ship’s draught. Back in May the Canadian Coast Guard authorised passage of vessels up to 44 m wide in the Quebec-Montreal section of the St. Lawrence navigation channel. Previously there had been a restriction of 32.1 m.
This move allows post-Panamax vessels to call at Montreal for the first time, although many of the larger ships used on the Europe-Montreal route are purpose-built with ice class, allowing for year-round services to Montreal, even in winter conditions.