The Canadian city of Montreal numbers among North America’s most important hubs for maritime cargo. Hapag-Lloyd’s ships help keep the waterways ice-free in winter.
Vessels sailing through the Gulf of Saint Lawrence and along the Saint Lawrence River can get deep into the North American continent. The stretch leading to Montreal measures nearly 700 nautical miles and usually takes a container ship about 44 hours to complete. During the often harsh winters, ice, freezing sea spray and low temperatures severely test ships and their crews. Of course, icebreakers keep the waterways free year-round. But making sure that vessels can navigate this stretch safely and on schedule under wintry conditions requires meticulous preparation.
“These conditions generally aren’t a problem for us,” explains Donald Poirier from Hapag-Lloyd’s Montreal office, adding that all Hapag-Lloyd ships calling at the Port of Montreal are optimally equipped to sail under arctic conditions. “Some of the ships are specifically constructed for the Saint Lawrence River and have an ice class,” Poirier stresses, noting that the captains often have Arctic experience, as well.
Staying on schedule is important because Montreal is a key destination for Hapag-Lloyd. Three services connect Northern and Southern Europe with the city, which is Canada’s second-largest port after Vancouver. In fact, measured in terms of transport volume, these services make Hapag-Lloyd the largest container carrier
Hapag-Lloyd also takes several measures to ensure that the passage works reliably in winter, too. “All important systems on board are heated, we have two radar systems, and we take two pilots on board,” Poirier says, naming some of the important measures. Should ice threaten to clog the cooling water valves, the crew also makes adjustments to this system. For the so-called inter-cooling, cooling water is taken from the ship’s own ballast tanks rather than from the freezing sea, as a failure in the engine cooling system would be fatal and could render the vessel unable to maneuver.
With a transport capacity of more than 4,000 standard containers (TEU), vessels like Hapag-Lloyd’s Montreal Express, Toronto Express and Quebec Express, which was only added to the service in December 2015, number among the largest vessels that can call at Montreal. The fact that they also are among the most powerful motorized vessels, with their roughly 50,000 horsepower engines, only further enhances their already good reputation in Canada during
the winter. “Our captains are often the first behind the icebreaker in winter,” Poirier says, “which also makes our high-powered vessels very popular among the pilots.”