The Port then and now

Milestones in the History of the Port of Montreal


Jacques Cartier explores the island of Montreal, home to the city and the Port of Montreal.


Samuel de Champlain arrives on the island and finds no trace of the Huron village of Hochelaga that had welcomed Jacques Cartier.


Paul Chomedey, Sieur de Maisonneuve, establishes Ville-Marie.

For almost two centuries, wharves mainly serve canoes, flatboats and barges used in the booming fur trade. French sailboats, and then English, supply the colony. Montreal really begins to gain prominence as a port city at the beginning of the 19th century with the arrival of the steamship.


John Molson launches the first Canadian steamship, the Accommodation.


The first Harbour Commission is created. It builds the first permanent wharves and presses the government to dredge the river.


Some 1,143 metres (3,750 feet) of docks are built. 


Circa 1840, the Gold-Headed Cane tradition begins.


John Young becomes chairman of the Harbour Commission and provides fresh impetus to port improvement.


The navigation channel between Quebec City and Montreal is deepened to 4.88 metres (16 feet) and widened to 76.19 metres (250 feet).


Montreal Ocean Steamship Company, which would later become part of Allan Line, inaugurates the first regular steamship service between Montreal and Liverpool, England.


Following port improvements, 500 ships call the port.


The first locomotive arrives on the wharves.


Electric lights brighten the port for the first time.


The channel is dredged to 7.5 metres (25 feet).


New stone walls are built along the length of the port and new piers are planned.


The construction of modern grain elevators at the port begins.


The first permanent transit sheds are constructed.


A project to deepen the channel to 10.7 metres (35 feet) begins.

Expansion of Victoria Pier


The federal government creates the National Harbours Board. The Port of Montreal comes under its umbrella, ending the regime of the Harbour Commissioners of Montreal.


More than 25 steamship lines serve the port for seven and a half months of the year.


The federal government uses icebreakers between Quebec and Montreal. This initiative is taken mainly to prevent ice jams that would cause major flooding in the Greater Montreal region and Lake St. Pierre every year.


The Helga Dan becomes the first ship to reach the Port of Montreal at the outset of the year in January. Year-round navigation is born in Montreal.


The Port of Montreal handles its first container.


Canada’s first container terminal opens in Montreal. Manchester Liners Ltd. launches a weekly container service to the United Kingdom.


Construction of Cast container terminal.


The Port of Montreal handles its one-millionth container.


The Port of Montreal expands and handles more and more containers in the east end of Montreal.

Construction of Racine container terminal.

Port administration hands over its oldest facilities backing on to Old Montreal to the Old Port of Montreal.


Creation of the Montreal Port Corporation, a highly autonomous port corporation reporting to the federal transport minister. Its board of directors is made up of businesspeople from the Montreal region.


Maisonneuve container terminal (Termont) opens.

The Port of Montreal handles more than five million tonnes of containerized cargo for the first time.


The minimal depth of navigable waters increases to 11 metres (36 feet) following a maintenance dredging project using more precise methods to locate high spots on the bed of the channel.


Two brand new container ships each with a capacity of at least 2,300 TEUs (20-foot equivalent units) are christened in Montreal.


Two shipping lines take delivery of three ships capable of transporting 2,800 TEUs. These ultramodern vessels are the biggest container ships sailing the St. Lawrence. Specially built for the river, they are safer than ever thanks to electronic navigation.


Under the new Canada Marine Act, the Montreal Port Corporation becomes the more autonomous Montreal Port Authority. Federal, provincial and municipal governments each name an individual to the board of directors. The federal transport minister, on the recommendation of port users, nominates four other directors. All seven directors are businesspeople from the Montreal region.

A project for the selective dredging of shoals over two per cent of the surface area of the channel bed between Montreal and Cap à la Roche, downstream from Trois-Rivières, increases the minimal depth of navigable waters to 11.3 metres (37 feet).

The Port of Montreal handles a record amount of containerized cargo for a seventh consecutive year – some nine million tonnes in about one million TEUs. A leader in the North Atlantic container market, the port continues to handle an impressive and diverse amount of general and bulk cargo. Total traffic reaches some 20 million tonnes annually.


The Montreal Port Authority is celebrating its 175th anniversary. In fact, it was in 1830 that the first Le Havre Commission was created.

Termont Montreal Inc., which operates the Maisonneuve terminal, is acquiring the first post-Panamax gantry crane on the Port of Montreal. These gigantic cranes are capable of lifting two containers 20 feet at a time, for a maximum load of 65 tons. Termont Montreal will acquire a second post-Panamax crane in 2008.


The Port of Montreal is reaching a new milestone in its growth by handling more than 25 million tonnes of goods.


The year 2007 marks the centennial of the MPA operating its own railway system. 


The electronic navigation system is set up from Montreal to the mouth of the Gulf of St. Lawrence. This system allows pilots boarding ships to access the Canadian Coast Guard's MARINFO Portal by using their computer and to obtain real-time information such as the condition of the navigation channel, positions, notices to shipping, etc. The computer is also connected to the international land-to-ship communication system (SIA), which provides real-time information on the precise position of the vessel and an overview of other vessels passing through the area.


Sylvie Vachon becomes the first woman to be appointed President and Chief Executive Officer of the Montreal Port Authority.
The Port of Montreal becomes a member of the international Green Award program.
The Port of Montreal officially receives Green Marine certification.


The MPA acquires its first multi-generator, environmentally friendly locomotive.
The Port of Montreal welcomes for the first time the MS AIDALuna, the largest cruise ship to ever call in to Montreal, with a capacity of 2,100 passengers.
The Port of Montreal’s Grain Elevator No. 5 and a series of adjacent properties are transferred to Canada Lands Company.  


The MPA starts providing free Internet access to seafarers whose ships are docked at the Port of Montreal.
Implementation of a new truck entry portal that allows a reduction of 80% in transaction time and 50% of waiting time.
The Montreal Port Authority transfers the management of its grain terminal to the Albertan agri-food company Viterra.


The MPA is a driving force behind the creation of CargoM, the new logistics and transportation metropolitan cluster that aims to position Montreal as the hub of choice in Eastern Canada for freight transportation.
The MPA signs a cooperation agreement with the Port of Antwerp.
The Port of Montreal now has a new signature: “Trading with the World”.


The Port of Montreal opens to Post-Panamax vessels after authorization of vessels with a maximum width of 44 metres in the Quebec City-Montreal section of the St. Lawrence Seaway.  
Arrival at the Port of Montreal of the largest cruise ship to date, the MS AIDAbella, with a capacity of 2,500 passengers.
The MPA completes its fleet of multi-generator locomotives.


The MPA celebrates the 175th Gold-Headed Cane presentation ceremony.  
CanEst Transit opens its new terminal for cleaning and containerization of agricultural products at the Port of Montreal.


The MPA launches the work of the Good Neighbourhood Committee.
The Port of Montreal files its Project Description with the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency for the development of a new container terminal on its land in Contrecœur.


The Port of Montreal achieves a new milestone in its growth by handling more than 35 million tonnes of freight, an all-time record.  
Inauguration of the new Viau Container Terminal. 
The MPA, the Government of Quebec and the City of Montreal officially announce the rehabilitation of Alexandra Pier and the Cruise Terminal.
The MPA launches the Trucking PORTal, a new digital tool that lets truck drivers and trucking companies better plan their travel. 
Arrival of the M/T Espada Desgagnés at the Valero Energy berth, marking the official start of new traffic related to the Enbridge Line 9B reversal project. 


The Port of Montreal celebrates the 50th anniversary of the arrival of the first containers.
Operational inauguration of the completely rehabilitated Cruise Terminal.
Opening of the first port interpretation centre in Quebec with the History of Ships exhibition, which tells the rich history of the Port of Montreal.   
Finalization of the shore power installation project: This service is now available for wintering vessels and cruise ships visiting the Port of Montreal. 
A Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) supply solution is now available at the Port of Montreal for all shipowners.
The MPA and HAROPA sign an international cooperation agreement. 
The MPA and the Government of Quebec launch a development and consolidation of port assets project.
The Port of Montreal reaches a new milestone of growth in cruises by welcoming 114 517 passengers and crew members.


Opening of the Port of Montreal's Grand Quay.