The Louis-Hippolyte-La Fontaine tunnel poses a supply chain challenge

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The Louis-Hippolyte-La Fontaine tunnel is a challenge for the supply chain

Between 35% and 40% of trucks passing through the Port of Montreal use the Louis-Hippolyte-La Fontaine tunnel.

The partial closure of the Louis-Hippolyte-La Fontaine tunnel raises concerns concerns about the supply chain, believes the president and CEO of the Montreal Port Authority (MPA), Martin Imbleau, who nevertheless wanted to be reassured during a speech delivered at the Canadian Club on Monday.

We are worried, but it is not so much for the port: it is that these are essential goods and commodities for Quebec and Ontario. We're not worried about our operations, it's really the ecosystem, he said during his speech.

The MPA has been working for several months with its partners to find various solutions to mitigate the impact of the work on traffic. What I said was that when we were made aware of this, we had a concern [about] the impact, the leader said in an interview after the presentation .

This is why, for several weeks, several months, we have been developing solutions, and we think that the solutions that are currently in place will not not fix everything: there will be impacts, but it will greatly minimize the impacts for us.

Between 35% and 40% of the trucks that pass through the Port of Montreal use the tunnel that connects Montreal to the South Shore, Mr. Imbleau pointed out. That's around 1500 trucks a day.

“That's about 2% of the traffic going through the tunnel .

—Martin Imbleau, President and CEO of the Montreal Port Authority

Work in the Louis-Hippolyte-La Fontaine tunnel is expected to continue until 2025, which will result in the closure of three out of six lanes. Every day, some 120,000 vehicles pass through the tunnel.

To facilitate the movement of trucks stopping at the port, the MPA has developed a tool for carriers to estimate wait time and to suggest alternate routes for truckers.

Mr. Imbleau pointed out that the port is open until 11 p.m. but that the busy period is concentrated during regular hours. He hopes to spread the traffic more evenly over the day.

With the labor shortage, it could become more difficult to convince employees to work evenings.

Mr. Imbleau does not believe this represents an insurmountable obstacle. He thinks the transportation industry is generally good at adapting to customer needs.

“Trucking is adapting: it's showing a lot of flexibility. So we will go through a period of adaptation, but we are smart, we will find solutions.

—Martin Imbleau, President and CEO of the Montreal Port Authority

The situation seems to be returning to normal at the Port of Montreal, which has been at the forefront of supply chain disruptions, Mr. Imbleau said in an interview. It depends a bit on the sectors, but overall, we are roughly at the level of 2019.

Mr. Imbleau believes businesses are well stocked as the holidays approach. One of the reasons for the congestion this summer is that stocks were ordered well in advance. And Christmas stocks are thought to have long been in warehouses already.

As rising interest rates raise concerns of a possible recession, Mr. Imbleau says there are no signs of a slowdown in activity at the Port of Montreal. Sometimes we look at maritime deliveries as a predictive indicator. Currently, there is no slowdown.

However, there has been a slowdown in European ports in the last month, he added. No slowdown [in Montreal]: we don't expect a big upheaval, but I don't have a crystal ball.

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