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Ongoing tension and aftermath of 2020 strike sees Port of Montreal lose business

Ongoing tension and aftermath of 2020 strike sees Port of Montreal lose business
Port of Montreal

Several Quebec and Ontario businesses that use the Port of Montreal have diverted containerised goods to other ports as a result of the dockworkers’ strike in 2020.

Some of these businesses move critical cargo to combat COVID-19 and the Montreal Port Authority (MPA) has found other businesses have planned to divert as well if a new work stoppage occurs soon.

In the summer of 2020, a 19-day work stoppage impacted many companies’ operations and caused major delays in the supply chain and higher freight costs.

According to Statistics Canada, the backlogs and delays caused by the dockworkers’ strike in 2020 cost wholesalers CA$600m (US$470m) in sales over a two-month period.

In a survey conducted by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business in August 2020, 40% of Quebec SMEs suffered negative impacts due to the situation.

These work stoppages have significantly affected operations in the container sector as more than 20 container ships have been diverted to competing ports and about 80,000 teu grounded or rerouted.

Altogether, it took over three months (85 days) to clear these backlogs and return to what could be considered normal operations.

A new work stoppage could have the same effect right as the economic recovery and a broader reopening of the retail sector in Quebec and Ontario get under way.

The negotiation process between the dockworkers’ union CUPE and the Maritime Employers Association (MEA) has been suspended and the truce between the two parties is coming to a close.

MPA hopes that the parties quickly reach an agreement to avoid a new work stoppage by the dockworkers as the Port of Montreal has already felt its impact.

In 2020, the Port of Montreal handled more than 2,500 containers, or about 20 containers per port call, thanks to a CargO2ai – a system that uses artificial intelligence to accelerate the delivery of containers containing critical medical equipment.

However, during the general strike which occurred from August 10 to 22, 2020, not a single critical container on the ground was moved.

A halt in port operations and the diversion of goods to competing and more distant ports have direct and serious repercussions for the economy of Greater Montreal and for Canadian businesses that depend on international trade.

Over 6,000 transportation and logistics businesses in Greater Montreal have been directly or indirectly affected by a strike at the Port of Montreal, according to the Logistics and Transportation Metropolitan Cluster of Montreal CargoM.