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Changes at Port of Montreal will improve container flow

MONTREAL, Que. - By late February, a good percentage of the container trucks entering the Port of Montreal will be using an automated system that should replace paperwork and line-ups of drivers at the guard shacks when they come in to pick up...


MONTREAL, Que. – By late February, a good percentage of the container trucks entering the Port of Montreal will be using an automated system that should replace paperwork and line-ups of drivers at the guard shacks when they come in to pick up and drop off containers.

The common portal, as the system is called, will speed throughput and increase security. A key feature, however, is a buffer (think 27-lane parking lot) that will let as many as 150 trucks at a time wait their turn on Port of Montreal (PoM) grounds instead of on city streets.

An average of 2,500 container trucks a day squeeze into the port through a single bottleneck at the corner of Notre-Dame and DeBoucherville. Once in, before the common portal was built some of the trucks would head left for the Cast and Racine Terminals. Others would take a right across a railway track onto a four-kilometre access road to Termont Terminal.

At peak hours, the access road and the small waiting area for Cast and Racine would fill, leaving long lines of trucks idling along Notre-Dame and DeBoucherville. Passing trains would block the Termont access road, Termont-bound trucks would block access to Cast and Racine and incoming trucks would back up into the city like a flood behind a clogged storm drain.

Here is how the common portal should cure this foolishness once it is fully operational: Trucks still turn into the PoM at the corner of DeBoucherville and Notre-Dame. Now, however, they next make a tight right turn, which splits into two lanes.

Drivers swipe their ID cards in window-level scanners, and the system associates the driver, carrier and container. Then they pass through a two-lane shed full of cameras that read container numbers, which are entered into a database. Then the trucks make a 180-degree left turn into the buffer.

If there is extreme congestion, trucks can be “spat out” out of the port before they get to the buffer; they are expected to drive around for a few minutes before re-entering the port.

Entering the buffer, drivers pick a lane according to their destination: there are four lanes for trucks heading to Cast; 19 lanes for Racine-bound trucks; and eight for Termont-bound trucks.

At the far end of each lane is an automated truck gate pedestal where a driver can do their transaction from inside the truck.
They swipe their pass card and offer a fingertip to a biometric fingerprint reader. Once the system verifies the driver and carrier, the machine spits out a slip of paper with information to be used at the terminal. Once through the pedestals, trucks scatter to the three container terminals.

The PoM also plays traffic cop at the buffer: If there is too much downstream congestion, it can signal drivers to wait in the buffer. As for that railway track, when a train passes, Termont-bound trucks cool their heels in the buffer without blocking Cast- and Racine-bound trucks.

The common portal will increase throughput mainly by eliminating the old stop and stroll to the guard shack routine with paperwork.

The common portal also increases security. In order to use the new system, the 1,000-plus carriers that haul containers in and out of the port had to re-register with PoM. Their drivers got new pass cards and had a fingerprint taken. When a shipper sends a pick-up or delivery order, it knows that, say, carrier Call’m-Haul’m is coming in to pick up a container. The company informs the terminal that Vincent Vitesse will be the driver, who must remember to bring both his card and finger to prove that he is the assigned driver.

 “This makes sure the proper containers came with the proper company and the proper driver,” explains Felixpier Bergeron, director of security and fire prevention, PoM.

Containers are scanned a second time at more gates at the terminals.

“Information is verified several times in the process to protect against organized crime and human error. The whole process should make it impossible to steal containers,” Bergeron says.

The common portal has been deployed in stages: The buffer has been in place for several years. PoM started building the podiums in 2010. By the end of this January, the two-lane shed was operational. By roughly mid-February, the 27 podiums are expected to be sufficiently operational for PoM to regulate the flow of trucks from the buffer to the terminals. The podiums for Termont and its electronic paperwork were expected to be operational by mid- to late-February. The podiums and the electronic paperwork for Cast and Racine will become fully operational later this year.


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