The Quebec Port Authority (QPA) is proceeding with plans to build a new $775-million container terminal on the north shore of the St. Lawrence River that will be the most environmentally and technologically advanced cargo-handling facility in North America.
The project will require a 450-metre eastward extension to an existing wharf on the waterway so that two deep-water berths can be added for bulk transport facilities in the Beauport sector, along with development of a 17-hectare area behind the wharf that will be used for material handling and container storage.
The work will also include construction of a retaining dike and breakwater, and a link-up to rail and road networks.
The QPA has signed a long-term deal with global port operator Hutchison Ports and Canadian National Railway to develop the container terminal on the Quebec City port lands. It’s the only inland terminal on the continent capable of handling the next generation of large cargo vessels.
QPA spokesperson Marie-Andree Blanchet said the new terminal was deemed necessary to improve Canada’s shipping competitiveness and ensure the port can compete effectively with those on the U.S. coast.
“Currently the St. Lawrence supply chain lacks a deep-water container terminal to compete effectively with ports on the U.S. east coast and to take advantage of the improved transportation economies of utilizing larger container vessels which require the deep water available at the Port of Quebec,” she said.
“The improved shipping economics will allow Canadian importers and exporters to expand their markets with lower costs,” said Blanchet.
She said the deep-water terminal is the only facility in the Saint Lawrence which could accommodate the new generations of very large ships. It has year-round access, is a strategic transfer point between the industrial and agricultural core of North America and the rest of the world and is the only port in the Great Lakes trade corridor that has more than 15 metres of water depth at low tide.
The facility, she noted, also benefits from a direct railway and highway connection and has all the necessary space to handle 500,000 TEUs, or twenty-foot equivalent units, a year. A TEU refers to the volume of a 20-foot-long intermodal container and is often used to describe the capacity of container ships.
The project, dubbed Laurentia, also has the strategic advantage of being able to handle large container ships up to 14,000 TEUs and direct links to inland markets via long trains of up to 12,000 feet.
The target date to commence operations is in late 2024 or early 2025,
— Marie-Andree Blanchet
Quebec Port Authority
The QPA will pay for the building and wharf infrastructure while Hutchison will invest in the terminal to accommodate container operations, including all equipment and operating systems. The port authority has also submitted an application to the National Trade Corridors Fund created by Transport Canada.
When completed, the port will be modern and have the most sophisticated and energy-efficient technology. Equipment for handling containers will be powered by 100-per-cent renewable electricity and use the latest technology which will make operations efficient and reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
By enabling larger vessels to berth at the Port of Quebec, fewer container ships will also be required to travel the river, thereby reducing transport GHGs.
A review off the project is currently being carried out by the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency (CEAA).
Blanchet, who is the QPA’s advisor, public relations and events, said the port will follow the timeline of the CEAA but is aiming to obtain authorization to begin the construction tendering process in 2020. No contractors have yet been selected.
“It is anticipated that construction will commence as soon as possible following approval by the federal environmental agencies,” said Blanchet. “Depending upon seasonal considerations, construction is anticipated to take up to four years to complete. The target date to commence operations is in late 2024 or early 2025.”
Marissa Harfouche, communications advisor at the CEAA, said the public and Indigenous peoples have been invited to comment on the potential environmental effects of the project and measures the company is proposing to mitigate them.
The CEAA requested the information from the port in early August and, once it is received, will complete its technical review and draft an Environmental Assessment (EA) report with potential conditions.
Further public and Indigenous consultations on the EA report will be held prior to a final decision on the venture.
The project is expected to significantly boost the local economy and, according to Blanchet, create a significant number of jobs during the construction phase.
According to a study from KPMG, for the construction phase alone, the project will generate $500 million in economic benefits and an average of 1,267 jobs a year. Ultimately, the project will generate $84 million in economic benefits a year and will create nearly 800 jobs, including 500 direct ones, in Quebec.