We are receiving news that container shipping lines have begun diverting from the Port of Montreal as a series of strikes disrupt container handling for another week at Canada’s second-largest port.
Hapag-Lloyd has confirmed that the Detroit Express will call at the Port of Saint John in New Brunswick on Saturday rather than calling at Montreal as originally scheduled.
Over the weekend, the MSC Sariska and the MSC Veronique also omitted their Montreal calls, instead sailing direct to Halifax and New York.
Other carriers serving Montreal are also looking to divert ships’ calls, suggesting they expect strike action to extend beyond Friday, when checkers and longshore workers are due to return to work.
The current ship diversions are reminiscent of the 2010 Montreal port strike, when carriers diverted vessels to Halifax after Montreal employers locked out longshore workers.
This time, there are fears that the disruption will have lasting damage on Montreal’s attractiveness as a gateway for discretionary cargo that can also 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.