Traffic to the end of March at leading French port Marseilles Fos saw major rises in container, dry bulk and cruise passenger volumes, but total cargo throughput fell 6% to 18.8 million tonnes – down by 1.2MT on the first quarter last year – due to declining oil trades in a changing market.
General cargo improved 1% to 4.3MT, led by 2.8MT in container tonnage. In unit terms, box traffic rose 9% to 287, 929 teu, with monthly throughput hitting a landmark 100, 000 teu in both February and March. The performance was boosted by two new services, a Fos-Spain/Italy feeder and a direct line between Marseilles and Libya. These helped to stabilise container volumes at Marseilles and drive an 11% increase at the Fos terminals. Elsewhere in the general cargo sector, conventional trades dipped 1% to 0.7MT and ro-ro fell 10% to 0.8MT after industrial disputes at two operators in January.
Dry bulk traffic climbed 19% to 3.6MT, restoring pre-economic crisis levels. Backed by rising coal imports, the main increase stemmed from steel industry demand for ore imports, which grew 23% to some 2.5MT. However, agro-bulks were down 8% on 0.26MT after falling grain prices weakened barley and corn exports.
Meanwhile the oil-led liquid bulks sector slumped 14% to 10.9MT. Crude oil and petroleum products totalled 10.1MT, down by 1.8MT and 16% on the first three months last year. With refining margins collapsing at three local plants, crude imports for national refineries were 21% worse on 5.1MT, while crude volumes for South European Pipeline delivery fell 19% to 0.54MT. Refined products dropped 2% to some 2.9MT, while LNG finished 27% worse on 0.97MT and LPG was 9% down at 0.6MT. In contrast, liquid chemicals and agro-products improved 17% to 0.9MT thanks to biofuel exports and a 70% increase in caustic soda exports from the Kem One plant in Lavera, which was saved from closure last December and is now about to be modernised.
Passenger throughput rose 18% to 315, 000 on the back of soaring cruise numbers. While ferry carryings fell 25% to 117, 000, cruise passengers were up 79% to 198, 000 – an increase of 87, 000 on Q1 last year that confirms the cruise sector now commands a year-round season.