Mixed Results for Marseilles

Monday, October 22, 2007
Despite increases in general cargo and liquid bulks, January-September throughput at leading French cargo port Marseilles-Fos slipped to 72.03 million tonnes – down 2.7% on the first nine months last year - due to lower oil and dry bulk volumes. General cargo rose 6% to 13.05MT, led by an 8.4% increase in container tonnage to 7.55MT on the back of Far East imports. Ro-ro traffic contributed 3.3MT (+5.6%) while conventional trades were down 0.9% on 2.2MT. In unit terms, box traffic grew 4.8% to 744,000 teu. Petro-chemicals demand saw liquid bulks throughput improve 10.8% on 2.56MT but reduced steel industry demand prompted a 15.7% fall in dry bulks to 10.35MT. The oil sector experienced contrasting fortunes to finish 2.3% down at 46.07MT. Crude imports of 32.34MT (+2%) included 24.3MT for domestic refineries – a 6% rise – but pipeline deliveries to Switzerland and Germany dropped 10% to 8MT. Refined products and LPG slumped 15% to 10.5MT while LNG gained 10% to 3.13MT. Passenger throughput rose 1.8% to 1.72 million. Although ferry carryings on Corsica and North Africa services were 2% down at 1.37m – reflecting a fall in Algerian traffic – the cruise sector soared 20% to 350,000 passengers, leaving the port close to its target of 400,000 for the full year. Meanwhile, dredging is under way in the first phase of construction work on the Port of Marseilles Authority’s Fos 2XL container terminal project. Due in service by 2010, two new terminals are being developed in partnership with private operators Port Synergy and MSC, increasing annual capacity at Fos from 600,000 to 2.1 million teu. The dredging operation started in September as part of a two-year contract that also involves the construction of 1,200 metres of quay. Under main contractor GTM Genie Civil et Services, the dredging is being carried out by Dredging International of Belgium and its French affiliate SDI. The work will take the water depth alongside the existing 1970-built terminal from 12 to 17 metres with the extraction of some six million cubic metres of material. The initial six weeks of dredging is being handled by Pearl River, one of the world’s largest suction dredgers, which is 170m long and has a collection well load capacity of 24,000 cu m. Following extensive studies establishing that the extract presents no particular pollution problems, most of the material will be discharged at sea. The current-friendly dispersal zone is 15km from the terminal, toward the edge of the Fos gulf, and offers depths of 50-70m. Monitoring devices to measure solids suspension levels have been placed in key gulf locations. Some 20,000 jobs in 1,400 companies are related to activity at the Port of Marseilles, according to a study of the port’s economic impact in the Marseilles Provence metropolitan area. The Port of Marseilles Authority has approved investments totaling $9.5m for expansion and renovation projects at Fos oil terminal. In an approximately $5m deal, three loading/discharge arms for refined products are being acquired for the new No.5 berth currently under construction. Responding to increases in vessel size, the arms will accommodate ships of up to 130,000gt and 15m draught. They will also increase capacity for the reception of biocarburants – a trade expected to grow by two million tonnes by 2012. A further $4.5m is to be spent on replacing three access towers at berths 1, 2 and 3 under the rolling renovation program at Fos. Works on both projects are to begin in 2008 for completion in 2010.

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