As a continued response to the pandemic in 2021, we introduced numerous measures to help protect the health and safety of our employees and partners. We introduced a mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policy for all our employees. We also requested all providers and partners with access to the port to be vaccinated. For employees who were required to work in the office and on site, we continued implementing stringent health measures to ensure their safety. The context around COVID-19 has led us to adapt our practices to this new reality and to improve certain working conditions for our staff, both in the office and while working from home.
With a focus on wellness at work, we continued our virtual Rendez-vous santé program. We presented talks, group challenges, and fun activities focused on physical and mental health. Discounts and freebies were also offered to employees to participate in leisure and relaxation activities.
Despite some changes in the Health and Safety team, we continued the development and deployment of our Occupational Health and Safety Management System (OHSMS) through the implementation of certain procedures such as the safe use of drones at the Port of Québec, a review of several programs including hot work, the use of forklifts, and continued planning of inspections of occupational health and safety equipment. The different works being carried out on port lands also called for a major update of the lockout system for our electrical installations.
With prevention at the heart of our concerns, we developed ten video capsules to help train new marina employees—specifically, students who join the team during the summer season—on various high-risk tasks that they must perform, such as managing falls into water, fuel fill-ups, launching, and boat removals. Several training courses have also been offered to other employees, both in-person and virtually, including training on entering confined spaces, hot work, driving forklifts and lift platforms, and road signage.
Our local health and safety committee has been hard at work updating our OSH management system procedures. It has met approximately ten times and conducted monthly inspections of our buildings. Committee members were also very involved in the development of the new policy on the prevention of harassment and violence in the workplace by identifying risk factors and developing preventive measures. All of our employees have received training on the new policy. The Environment, Health, Safety and Prevention Committee (EHSPC), made up of QPA partners, also continued meeting to establish common concerns and possible avenues for improvement in occupational health and safety.
In 2021, we maintained the highest level for each of the Green Marine certification criteria. Of the 48 participating port authorities in North America, the Port of Québec is the only port that has maintained the highest level for all indicators for a fourth consecutive year. Green Marine is a voluntary environmental certification program for the North American maritime industry. It is a rigorous, transparent, and inclusive initiative that targets priority environmental issues through its 14 distinct performance indicators.
The Port also continued to implement its Sustainable Development Action Plan for 2017–2022, which includes 27 actions. In 2021, one of the flagship initiatives was the launch of the EcoCargo program. The program offers ship owners with environmentally responsible practices a 30% discount on port fees. The credit is awarded in accordance with the level of certification achieved in the Green Marine or the RightShip programs, two recognized programs in the maritime industry. The EcoCargo program is a concrete action that aims to accelerate the shift to environmentally responsible activities while continuing to pursue our mission: to promote international trade in a manner that respects the environment and the community.
With the invaluable help of 75 volunteers, we carried out two pick-up activities where, in just a few hours, nearly a ton of scrap was removed from the aquatic environments of Beauport Bay and Louise Basin. Our efforts to manage residual materials also resulted in the recycling of about 70,000 masks from the vaccination centre’s activities at the new cruise terminal. Finally, 2021 was also marked by the adoption of a roadmap for achieving the carbon-neutral activities.
Last year, we continued to work with interest groups and citizens. In particular, we participated in discussions with the Port of Québec operations monitoring committee [Comité de vigilance des activités portuaires] and the Old Québec issue table (Table de concertation du Vieux-Québec). Although the intersectoral committee on environmental contamination in the La Cité-Limoilou district (Comité intersectoriel sur la contamination environnementale dans l’arrondissement La Cité-Limoilou) did not meet in 2021, we offered our participation in the working group, established under the Québec City regional public health directorate (Direction régionale de santé publique de la Capitale-Nationale).
For its part, our Port Community Relations Committee held four virtual meetings. The first three meetings focused on the Laurentia Project, while the last meeting in December 2021 focused on the strategic planning currently underway and on our collaboration with the Worldwide Network of Port Cities (AIVP). QPA President and CEO Mario Girard took the opportunity to highlight the committee’s role in the port’s activities and future projects.
We also held four meetings with the Jardins-Mérici consortium working table (Table de travail du Consortium des Jardins-Mérici). The objective of these meetings is to foster exchanges between the various stakeholders and to work collaboratively on preventing, reducing, and mitigating potential issues arising from port operations. Specific actions we have taken over the past year include the characterization of 10 major sound sources from our operators, completed by an independent firm. This characterization was presented to the working table’s stakeholders, as well as the surrounding community, last November. We have begun to implement mitigation measures to reduce noise levels, including the installation of white-noise alarms. Other measures are being implemented to reduce the sound impact of operations and to promote cohabitation with residents.
As well, we continued the work begun with the Brown Basin management working group (Groupe de travail sur l’aménagement du bassin Brown). The mandate of this group is to provide input and enhance the management of Brown Basin by exchanging ideas on the purpose of the site. Committee members, along with external stakeholders, conducted a site visit and discussed development opportunities. Recommendations to this effect will be proposed soon, and discussions with group members will continue in 2022.
Again this year, we have continued to work with the St. Lawrence action fund (Fonds d’action Saint-Laurent—FASL). Whether as a funder or as a proponent of riverbank reclamation and protection projects, we are proud to work with the FASL. The FASL is dedicated to providing financial support to projects that promote the conservation of the ecosystems and biodiversity of the St. Lawrence River and its Gulf, as well as maintaining and enhancing its usage. So far, the QPA and FASL’s collaboration has led to projects with the contribution of the Comité Zip for the Québec City and Chaudière-Appalaches region (ZIP-QCA), the water education and environmental monitoring group (Groupe d’éducation et d’écosurveillance de l’eau—G3E), as well as the Association forestière des deux rives (AF2R). These fruitful collaborations have allowed us to deepen our knowledge of the maritime environment and its biodiversity.
Meetings between the permanent working table bringing together the QPA and the Bureau du Nionwentsïo continued during 2021. The working table’s meetings have led to variety of collaborations, including fish-related studies. We have also joined the Huron-Wendat Nation in one of its projects aiming to restore connectivity to the habitat of the American Eel in the Saint-Charles River. Further meetings started in 2021 will continue in 2022 to consolidate existing links and to discuss an agreement that will allow the partnership to continue and pursue project development.
The Port of Québec works in collaboration with many organizations in the maritime sector and the business community, both in Québec and internationally. Examples include the Québec and Lévis Chambers of Commerce, the St. Lawrence Economic Development Council (Société de développement économique du Saint-Laurent—SODES), Destination Québec, the Worldwide Network of Port Cities (AIVP) and several others. In fact, in 2021, President and CEO Mario Girard was appointed to the Vice-President of the AIVP. With its headquarters in France and members from more than fifty countries, the AIVP aims to improve the relationship between cities, ports, and citizens with a view to sustainable development by fostering dialogue, generating exchanges, and offering solutions.
The Port of Québec also undertook a unique collaboration with the world-class marine innovation accelerator PortXL, with whom we are evaluating the possibility of installing a first PortXL trade office in North America in Québec City, following the trade offices established in Rotterdam, Antwerp, and Singapore. This interport association enables us to discuss the different issues we encounter, as well as to develop and publicize the innovative solutions developed by our respective local companies.
As a centre of innovation, we want to make our contribution by setting up an incubator for companies focused on research and development of clean technologies and actions promoting energy transfer. For example, the Port of Québec and its many partners participated in a feasibility study in 2021 that concluded that Québec has all the potential to ensure the success of such a project. Work aiming to define the business model will continue in 2022.
As tradition would have it, the beginning of 2021 was marked by the presentation of the prestigious Canne à pommeau d’or to the captain of the first oceangoing vessel of the year from a foreign port to moor at the Port of Québec. Captain Ivan Pauk, at the head of the ship MIRELLA S, flying the flag of Barbados, was awarded the honour when he arrived at section 50 of the Beauport port facilities on January 1, 2021, at 8:10 am.
For the very first time in 2021, the Port of Québec’s Historical Pedestrian Rally went digital. From mid-August to the end of October, citizens and visitors were invited to discover the port’s history through the development of 14 interactive stations. This contactless, cellphone-accessible technology allowed participants to discover a goldmine of text, visual, and video content. A total of 640 people participated in the rally, an increase of 42% compared to the 2019 edition, the 2020 edition being held online only.
This activity is part of the plan to enhance port heritage and is the result of a valuable collaboration with the Musée naval de Québec and the Huron-Wendat Nation. For this fifth edition, the QPA also relied on generous sponsors, namely, Tourisme Wendake, La Traite restaurant, Excursions Maritimes Québec, and Strøm Spa Nordique.
More than ever, the pandemic has revealed the importance of supporting organizations in our community. In the spirit of goodwill and dedication, we continued our community involvement by supporting more than 100 causes, including those of the Le Pivot community organization, the Laura Lémerveil Foundation, the Élan Foundation, Moisson Québec, the Café Rencontre du Centre-Ville, the Maison du Marin, and the Fondation Jeunes en tête, to name just a few. And let’s not forget Le Pignon Bleu, which made the cookies that we distributed during our Christmas campaign.
We also participated in the extensive fundraising campaign run by the organization Centraide Québec and Chaudière-Appalaches. Thanks to the valuable involvement of our employees, we raised more than $15,000 to improve the quality of life of our most vulnerable individuals and communities.
In addition to these commitments, we contributed to the success of many activities, such as the Carnaval de Québec, the Défi kayak Desgagnés, the Canot de Glace expérience, and the Québec Singletrack Expérience. By supporting these events that make our community come alive, we are pleased to contribute to the dynamism and influence of our beautiful region, both in Québec and internationally.