Container lines diverting ships from strike-hit Montreal

Container lines diverting ships from strike-hit Montreal

Other carriers serving Montreal are also looking to divert ships

Container lines are diverting calls from the Port of Montreal and one marine terminal has begun turning away refrigerated exports, as a series of strikes cripple containerized trade for another week at Canada’s second-largest port. 

In a Tuesday customer advisory, Hapag-Lloyd said the Detroit Express would call the Port of Saint John in New Brunswick on Saturday rather than calling the Montreal Gateway Terminals (MGT) as originally scheduled. Over the weekend, the MSC Sariska and the MSC Veronique skipped their Montreal calls, heading straight to New York-New Jersey after calling Halifax, has learned.

Other carriers serving Montreal are also looking to divert ships' calls, suggesting they expect strike actions to extend beyond Friday, when checkers and longshore workers are due to return to work. 

Marine terminals have also begun turning away time-sensitive cargo. MGT will allow the loading of dry but not refrigerated exports onto the Toronto Express when it calls Cast terminal on Wednesday, according to the Hapag-Lloyd advisory. 

The current ship diversions call to mind the 2010 Montreal port strike when carriers diverted vessels to the Port of Halifax after Montreal employers locked out longshore workers. This time, the shipping industry fears that the disruption will have lasting damage on Montreal's attractiveness as a gateway for so-called discretionary cargo that can be handled by the ports of Halifax and New York-New Jersey. 

Hapag-Lloyd’s announcement of the ship diversion comes a day after Montreal port checkers said they would strike for 48 hours starting Wednesday morning at the Termont terminals, paralleling an ongoing strike by longshore workers that is also set to end Friday morning. 

As the strike action continues into its second week, employers are pressuring the federal government to intervene and bring the disruption to an end. The Canadian Parliament can introduce a bill ordering port workers back on the job, but sources close to the matter say there’s little interest from federal officials in stepping in, despite the strike halting the unloading of personal protective equipment tied to the pandemic.