A lot of factors going into who calls which ports. DP Worlds marriage with the Port of Saint John expansion positions them well to capture some volume for certain. What needs to be understood are the trade lanes— SJ currently has two services from MSC and CMA that are North-South covering the Latin America - Canada trades, for which they are well positioned. Of course for MSC you can transship at Freeport easily to anywhere else in the world.
Regarding vessel sizes and tidal ranges— current ships calling from MSC are 3500-4000 TEUs, a smaller-to-medium sized workhorse. CMA is in the 1400ish TEU range, a doubling of vessel sizes since their first calls with some 798TEU chartered ships in rotation.
Regarding the USA-CAN container issue that doomed the Sunbury train. Timing was a critical element of that, the NAFTA 2.0 and whenever USMCA deal (very similar to existing deal) comes through already solved this problem with the electronic filing with CBP at ingate. Keep in mind CMQ has handled some off shot CP-CMQ-NBSR domestic container trials without transit issues.
Regarding QC— CN making a clear decision on this is interesting, but not surprising after they lost the bid on Halterm. Also, a ‘megaport’ at QC is years off, where although CN has announced it there is never a done deal until shovels meet earth, which is still many years off (think regulatory environment first). Montreal has already started and expansion at , Concetoeur where the port is directly off CN but CP has already been granted access as part of the new deal by way of trackage rights. The problem of Montreal is they are limited to about 5000TEU vessels max. However, Montreal is one of the only ports that completely unloads and reloads the ships, whereas most just work through the vessel rotation a few hundred containers here or there.
Future outlook for Saint John is good. Halifax will continue to dominate the east but there is room for more ports in the Northeast. Boston is a ‘meh’ port that will see sustained growth but very small without any direct rail access. New York is crowded and faces labor issues almost every time a contract negotiation comes up. Montreal will dominate the NA-EU trade but little more beyond that. SJ having DP World at the helm will become the ‘Philadelphia’ of eastern Canada, carving out some key trades into Latin America and perhaps landing a direct connection into Asia. Ideally for them a competitive service into India, Malaysia or Australia would keep them out of the competitive China, Japan, Taiwan trades that Halifax, Boston and NYC will dominate.
Relative to rail, Saint John will boost to be the only Atlantic port that can be reached by both CN and CP. CN has already locked in given the current contractual agreements with CMA and MSC, however CP has been working on peeling away some of that business, so any landing of that, or either a change in Alliance or steamship lines calling Saint John could spark some east-west movement via CMQ. I’d say the important thing to remember is that all the pieces are in place and after the Port expansion that is underway is complete, we'll really see what potential could come up here. That really makes the CMQ line a good prospect for future growth, since they are a profitable enterprise without container traffic, that will be gravy on top of the rest.
Oh and look for Autoracks to return starting Jan 1, as CP won the Glovis contract back and will distribute via NBSR into the eastern Canadian market from Saint John.