1809, year when the first steamer arrived at the Trois-Rivières harbour. This event would launch the construction of berths and the development of railway companies.

In 1853, the first self-propelled ferry entered into service under the direction of Captain Charles Bourgeois of Sainte-Angèle-de-Laval. She ensured the connection between the Sainte-Angèle wharf and that of the Farmer Hotel, in Trois-Rivières.

1881, year when the Trois-Rivières Chamber of Commerce was founded to speak for the Trois-Rivières business community before the federal government in order to convince them to set up the Trois-Rivières Harbour Commission, the ancestor of the current Port Authority.

The following year, in 1882, the Harbour Commission was created with the mission of modernizing the harbour facilities, integrating them into the rail network and thus stimulating the region’s economy. 

In 1893, the Dominion Coal Company rented a storage area on the Commissaires’ dock, where a large quantity of coal transited.

In 1911, their facilities and the unloading space being insufficient, the Dominion Coal Company moved to a new concrete dock built further west.

Although paper mills were absent from the Trois-Rivières landscape at that time, the Port of Trois-Rivières was used to import and export some of the materials needed for papermaking.

The Canadian International Papier (CIP) Company began their activities in 1920, while annual newsprint consumption in the United States was 2 million tonnes. This industry’s docks would later be integrated to the existing port facilities.

During the First World War, when agriculture dominated Canada’s gross national product, wheat, barley and oat production increased drastically. It was in this context that Louis Napoléon Jourdain had the first grain elevator built in 1920 at the Port of Trois-Rivières. This elevator, built in concrete and brick, was fireproof.

In 1923, the St. Lawrence Paper Mill moved to Trois-Rivières, and later became Domtar, and then Kruger.

In 1925, the CIP carried out an expansion project by adding four paper machines to the four already in operation. At that time, it would become the largest and most modern paper mill in the world.

In 1928, the Dominion Coal Company installed an efficient infrastructure for handling coal. Three mobile steel cranes mounted on rails were then erected along the dock.

In June 1929, the harbour commissioners obtained a $3 million loan from the federal government to build several docks and create new terminals. The construction was completed in 1934 and, overall, this project would give the port the configuration we now see today.

The harbour commissioners also saw the potential of the Jourdain elevator. In 1934, negotiations were undertaken to purchase this elevator. While the commissioners were awaiting funding for this project, the Toronto-based Upper Lakes and St. Lawrence Transportation Company was planning to build a similar structure in Trois-Rivières. This project took off in 1936, and an imposing structure was erected in the port of Trois-Rivières.

Until 1935, the Harbour Commission gradually acquired the entire river bank, from the Saint-Maurice River mouth up to the far west of the city.

In 1936, the Harbour Commission was dissolved and the National Harbours Board was created.

The demand for grain continued to grow, prompting Upper Lakes to begin construction of a large auxiliary timber warehouse in 1940. It was connected to the elevator by a network of underground conveyors and by another conveyor installed on the upper edge of the roof.

In 1956, the construction of a second elevator began, and two new towers were added in 1958 and 1959. This equipment had the advantage of being mounted on rails, and therefore could be moved in order to optimise the unloading of ships.

In 1958, work began to build section 20, on west end of the Port.

The opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway in the spring of 1959 would allow for increased marine traffic and opened up new opportunities for the grain market.

The Upper Lakes Company felt that their facilities were insufficient to meet the demand and decided to begin construction of a third elevator in the summer of 1962.

In October 1962, the purchase of the Canada Steamship Line warehouse, at Section 6, made it possible to plan the modernization of the eastern part of the harbour, and several warehouses were demolished.

In 1963, the Prommel Group, now called Groupe Somavrac, was founded at the Port of Trois-Rivières. The Prommel Group is a group of companies whose main activities are the stowage, transportation, storage, distribution, handling, and processing of chemicals.

In 1970, the Logistec Corporation (contraction of the words logistics and technology) acquired the shipping agency Ramsez Greig & Co. Ltd., and the acquisition of the Three Rivers Shipping Co. Ltd. and J. C. Malone & Company Ltd. allowed them to settle at the Port of Trois-Rivières.

In 1978, the Ontario-based Upper Lakes Group created a division responsible for administrating the Trois-Rivières facilities that was called Les Élévateurs des Trois-Rivières (ÉTR).

In 1981, ÉTR decided to replace the five grain chutes with three telescopic shipping towers that would allow for faster loading of larger ships, such as Panamax-class vessels.

The federal government, who was trying to promote grain trade, undertook a reform that changed port management. In 1983, the Canada Ports Corporation, also known as Ports Canada, was created to replace the National Harbours Board. Two categories of ports would thus be created: local port corporations, and divisional ports. Trois-Rivières, as a divisional port, was administered locally by a Chief Executive Officer, but would have to report to the national office for long-term strategic and development decisions.

Following the decline of the grain market in the early 1980s, Les Élevateurs des Trois-Rivières had to convert a portion of their facilities for the handling of raw materials for the Deschambault Aluminerie in the 1990s.

To restore public access to the river, the Canada Ports Corporation and the Department of Public Works began construction of a three-storey harbour-front park, which has been inaugurated in 1988. The park quickly became a strong symbol for the city, and new businesses appeared near the park.

In 1999, the Canada Ports Corporation was dissolved, and the Government of Canada launched a major reform. Under this reform, Trois-Rivières was listed as a national port, and the Trois-Rivières Port Authority was created under the terms of the Canada Marine Act.

In the first year of the creation of the Trois-Rivières Port Authority (TRPA) in 1999, the managers built a new warehouse for the storage of general cargo. In addition, docks 19 and 20 were rehabilitated. These projects were fully funded by the TRPA.

In 2005, Alcoa and Les Élevateurs des Trois-Rivières joined forces to improve worker safety. Ultimately, 240 modifications or additions have been made to the facilities, for an investment of $930,000.

A forward-looking reflection on the future of the port led the TRPA to undertake a strategic planning process that resulted, in 2008, in the implementation of an ambitious development plan entitled On Course for 2020. The vision that underlies this plan is “Developing modern, productive, community-integrated infrastructures in support of a skilled workforce”.

In 2010, a new public space, the Parc Hector-Louis-Langevin, was created between the TRPA offices and the harbour-front park, as part of the “Port City – Urban Port” collaboration initiative.

In 2013, Upper Lakes Group concluded the sale of their grain division, including Les Élévateurs des Trois-Rivières, to the Canadian Wheat Board.

In 2015, the Canadian Wheat Board merged their facilities with Bunge Canada to create G3 Canada Limited, which currently operates the elevator terminal at the Port.

In 2017, the development plan On Course for 2020 was completed, three years ahead of schedule and within the allocated budgets. This plan has made it possible to set up modern infrastructures, strengthen intermodality, guarantee full and complete safety, reduce the environmental impact while increasing the traffic at the Port, ensure harmonious integration with the nearby urban environment, increase the socio-economic impact, all this with exemplary governance and a well-developed financial package.

On October 10, 2018, the TRPA unveiled its On Course for 2030 development plan for 2030. In addition to continuing investments in port infrastructure, the On Course for 2030 plan aims to fully deploy the potential of the Port’s urban character. Based on the principles of sustainable development, On Course for 2030 focuses on the following vision: “To be an innovative urban port, growth generator at the heart of a competitive supply chain”.

Photo credit: Appartenance Mauricie, Société d’histoire régionale, Fonds Nouvelliste