Full year result at Marseille Fos reflects wide-ranging strategy
Total 2016 cargo of 81 million tonnes at Marseille Fos was on a par with 2015 throughput in a year that confirmed the leading French port’s diversification strategy.
Emerging trades – notably import/export cars, LNG and miscellaneous dry bulks – bolstered the traditional traffic base, where highlights included a container record 1.25 million teu and a 7% increase in trailers. Meanwhile passenger numbers reached two new peaks – 2.7 million overall and 1.6m in cruise visitors.
Beyond cargo and passenger handling, the port also strengthened its position as a major hub for logistics and industry tenants with extensive logistics park developments, a string of groundbreaking energy sector projects and further growth in shiprepair activity.
With 12MT from containers, general cargo rose 3% on 2015 to 18.5MT. The container record followed increases of 3% overall and 4% at the deepsea Fos terminals – a fourth consecutive year of growth that outstripped the European and French average for the second year running and underlined the port’s ‘alternative southern gateway for Europe’ marketing proposition.
Box volumes were boosted by capacity increases of 20-80% on eight lines – three serving Asia, two the US and Canada, two the Mediterranean and one the Indian Ocean. In addition four new services were launched, including MSC’s California Express, and Evergreen resumed own-calls after an 11-year absence. The major alliances are expected to further reinforce their presence at Fos in 2017.
Pre- and post-forwarding container activity on rail and inland waterways was marked by an 8% rise in rail traffic to 121,000 teu. The increase was helped by the arrival of two new operators, Modal Ouest and BD Rail Services, serving Chalon-sur-Saone and Niort in mid-west France. Future growth potential was signalled by the EU-backed Fresh Food Corridor pilot scheme, which links Israel to northern markets via ports and railheads in southern Europe. Marseille Fos took part in test runs that halved transit times to Rotterdam and Hamburg. The port is now participating in an extended 2017 programme.
Elsewhere in general cargo, ro-ro traffic included 182,000 trailers – representing a 7% increase in the Corsica and North Africa trade – and 170,000 import/export cars, a 5% rise reflecting the health of the French automobile market. Conventional trades slipped 3% to 2.3MT due to a downturn in steel industry products. In contrast, heavy loads provided encouragement thanks to construction of the world’s biggest nuclear fusion reactor at the ITER site in southern France, a multinational project that will grow in scale until 2025.
The oil and gas sector provided the port’s biggest volume leap of the year – a 33% increase worth 1.3MT taking LNG to 5.5MT. However, after being ahead for 11 months, the overall result was a point down on 49.4MT. Crude imports fell 3% to 26.3MT after Total started the conversion of its La Mede facility to a bio-refinery. Refined products on 12MT and LPG on 2.2MT dipped 6% and 2% respectively, while liquid chemicals and agro-products fell 6% to 3.3MT.
Total dry bulks traffic fell 7% to 13MT despite a recovery in Q4. The steel industry slump hit demand for raw materials – down 11% to 8.6MT – and agro-bulks dropped 16% to 0.68MT after a poor cereals harvest and the stoppage of sugar imports. In contrast, other bulks rose 7% to 3.6MT thanks to an emerging trade in wood pellets and more than double growth in materials for public construction works. Favourable prospects for 2017 include growth plans by major steel producer ArcelorMittal – which suffered from technical shutdowns in 2016 – and a new scrap iron trade estimated at 90,000T per year.
The record passenger total of 2.7 million – up 6% – was driven by a 9% rise in cruise numbers to another new high of 1.6m. In 2017 enlargement works will be completed on the Passe Nord port entrance in Marseille to enhance access for mega-cruiseships. Ferry carryings on Corsica and North Africa services rose 2% to 1.1m, marked by Algeria’s 27% increase to almost 285,000 passengers.
The port’s logistics parks saw more than 250,000m2 of warehouse, office and yard developments in 2016 due to consolidation by existing tenants and the arrival of several new players. Extensions by import/export car specialists led the way, with CAT adding 72,000m2 to their Marseille terminal and TEA expanding by 60,000m2 in Fos.
At the Distriport complex in Fos, developments included Group Charles Andre’s 32,000m2 warehouse – with 6,000m2 reserved for Seveso-classed dangerous goods – and facilities for bearings manufacturer NTN and logistics provider Steinweg in the Mediaco building. The Feuillane logistics zone, also in Fos, featured a 55,000m2 development by commercial property company IDEC Life, which plans a 35,000m2 extension in 2017.
In Marseille, data centre services provider Interxion set up a 12,000m2 base in former port premises. The location takes advantage of a new network of subsea intercontinental cables and launches a new niche for Marseille as a hub Smart port.
The port’s historic involvement in the oil & gas industry was reflected by progress in several pioneering energy sector projects. The 12,000 hectare PIICTO innovation platform – formed by the port authority and energy sector companies in the Fos Industrial Zone – launched the pilot stage of Jupiter 1000, which converts wind-generated electricity to gas and will be the first Power to Gas project linked to the French transmission network.
Fos also hosted the Vasco2 applied research project, which validated procedures for producing biofuels by cultivating water-based ‘microalgae’ using industrial CO2 emissions, and opened the first truck-dedicated natural gas filling station in the Provence-Alpes-Cote d’Azur region. Meanwhile, in Marseille, energy companies Engie and Dalkia opened marine geothermal production units to supply hydro-generated power for heating and cooling systems.
Following a very good previous 12 months, the Marseille-based shiprepair operation continued to advance in 2016. In a notable first for the facility, two methane carriers were berthed alongside for high added value work. They were among 131 ships to call for afloat repairs – a 21% increase – which represented a 20% rise to 2,602 days of quayside occupation. The number of drydockings was down 8% with 90 ships but up 4% in occupation terms with 2,014 days. Meanwhile major work neared completion to reopen the mothballed Drydock 10 – the world’s third largest – as a centre for giant cruise vessels and other mega-ships. The dock will be operational by April and is expected to stem its first ship by the summer.
In November Marseille staged the inaugural MedPorts Forum, when delegates from 25 ports met to discuss cooperation in promoting their pivotal role in world trade. The event underlined the port authority’s strategy of enhancing visibility among international maritime, logistics and industrial players, which was backed by a €55m development and maintenance budget, an increase of 22%.
Traffic in 2017 is forecast to rise by 2.2% to 82.7MT while investments are set for an 18% increase to €65m. Spending will include €5.5m for a mid-section quay joining the two container terminals at Fos2XL, where capacity will be increase by 15-20% on completion in 2018. The budget also features a provision of €6.7m to upgrade the international ferry terminal.