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Strong year confirms Marseille Fos growth trend

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Volumes last year in key areas of activity confirmed Marseille Fos as the leading French cargo and cruise port – a result matched by dynamic progress at its logistics and industrial sites.    

Total cargo throughput improved 1% on 2017 to 81 million tonnes.  Standout performances included a seventh consecutive year of growth in container traffic, which rose 2% for 1.4 million teu, and a 12% increase in dry bulks at 15.2MT.  Meanwhile cruise numbers leapt 15% to 1.7 million passengers. 

Infrastructure development and maintenance spending of €60 million featured further logistics park expansion.  Alongside this, agreements were reached on major industrial implantations.  The 2019 capex budget of €85m has earmarked €58m for development projects.  These include ongoing work to link the two Fos container terminals via a quay extension, which is due for handover in April 2020.

General cargo: 20.2MT (-1%)

With conventional traffic – mainly steel products breakbulk – down 11% on 2.4MT, the general cargo total was driven by container volumes amounting to 13MT.  This was supported by ro-ro throughput including 203,000 trailers (+1%) and 214,700 import/export cars (+2%).

Box traffic was helped by new Canada and Middle East services from Maersk and the deployment of 14,000 teu ships on the MD2 Alliance, boosting service capacity by 45%.  Meanwhile modal shift continued to gain ground under the port’s ‘southern gateway to Europe’ strategy, with rail and river pre- and post-forwarding container moves up 2.4% at 223,800 teu.  Rail volumes increased by 5% overall – and by 10% through Fos – for a record 146,500 teu.  Although waterways box traffic dipped 2.2% to 77,300 teu, second-half throughput jumped 10% year-on-year following enhanced shuttle frequency.

Dry bulks: 15.2MT (+12%)

The dry bulks performance again largely reflected strong steel industry demand for raw materials, which contributed 9.4MT (+1%).  A notable increase in demand for construction materials boosted other ore and mineral bulks by 37% to 5.4MT.   Agro-bulks rose 20% to 0.43MT thanks to cereals exports, which drove an overall increase of 31% in river traffic.

Liquid bulks: 45.5MT (-2%)

Oil and oil products throughput fell 2% on 42MT.  Crude imports were stable at 22.5MT but refined products were cyclically lower, dropping 6% to 12MT.  In a reversal of 2017 demand trends, LPG dropped 10% at 2MT but LNG added 9% for 5.6MT.  Liquid chemicals and foodstuffs slipped 1% to 3.4MT despite a 9% imports boost – which included a 5% rise in biofuels – and a 9% increase in soda exports.

Passenger throughput: 3 million (+11%)

The record three million milestone was marked by the cruise sector’s 15% jump to 1.7m passengers, which included 244,000 in October alone.  The port expects close to 1.9m in 2019 and 2.0m next year.  Marseille is already the main cruise hub in France and now the fourth largest in the Mediterranean.  Ferry passenger carryings rose 6% to 1.3 million, including increases of 12% on Algerian services and 5% on Corsica links, which recorded a third consecutive year of growth.


In 2018 Marseille’s fast-growing shiprepair facilities drydocked 99 vessels (+1%) and handled 133 afloat repairs (+25%).  Capacity was enhanced with the October 2017 reopening of the giant Drydock No.10, the Mediterranean’s largest and third biggest in the world.  At 465 metres long and 85 metres wide, it is aimed primarily at mega-cruiseships but also the gas carrier, bulker, container and offshore markets.   Costa Cruises has a one-third stake in repairer Chantier Naval de Marseille (CNdM), which also operates drydocks 8 and 9.  Work is now due to start on a 5.5 hectare site dedicated to the repair of large pleasure vessel repairs, which follows last year’s agreement between the port authority and Monaco Marine.

Development projects

Demand in 2018 for logistics and industrial space continued to underline the attraction of Marseille Fos as a strategic distribution and production location.  Contracts and negotiations during the year involved more than 130 hectares of land – 125ha in the Fos western area and the remainder around the Marseille eastern harbour.

Logistics developments in the western area included commissioning of the first 45,000m2 building in developer IDEC Life’s park – operated by XPO Logistics for Electro Depot – and surface extensions totalling 11ha for import/export cars specialists GEFCO and TEA.  Marketing started for 50ha in the Feuillane Nord park, where a further 19ha will be allocated this year, and for a 4.7ha plot among the last available at Fos Distriport.  Another four Distriport plots will be settled in 2019 together with the launch of studies for Distriport II.  In the Marseille areas, agreement was reached with Corsica Line to extend the freight park.

Meanwhile work is progressing on a string of agreements for industrial implantations featuring gas, bitumen and silica production.  Notably this includes a 12ha site for the largest Chinese-owned factory in France under a letter of intent with Quechen Silicon Chemical, the world’s third biggest producer of silica for the manufacture of ‘green’ vehicle tyres.

Hand in hand with industrial developments, the port authority pursued its policy of environmental impact reduction, which also extends to shipping clients.  The port is preparing to provide LNG bunkering and also to extend ‘cold ironing’ shore power for ferries, with the initial La Meridionale agreement set to be followed from this year on behalf of Corsica Line and in subsequent years for Tunisia’s Cotunav.

New life for heritage Marseille ferry terminal

The historic J1 ferry terminal in the Marseille Fos eastern harbour is to be redeveloped as a business, retail and leisure centre following the outcome of an international call for projects launched in 2017.

After an 18-month process in which four candidates were shortlisted, the winning group has now been announced as real estate company ADIM Immoblier Provence, Vinci Construction France, the French public sector finance body Caisse des Depots and renowned Paris-based architects Reichen & Robert, who specialise in industrial building conversions.

The prestigious three-storey JI hall covers almost 25,00m2 and is on a site including 150m of quay and a 4,000m2 water basin.  The new amenity – due to open in 2023 – will feature offices dedicated to innovation and training, event and exhibition spaces including an esplanade garden, a world class hotel, various restaurant and fast food amenities, craft outlets, food shops and concept stores.  In addition, a multi-faceted complex will host a spa and fitness trail, a climbing wall, an aqua-playground and aqua-gym, an activity pool and potentially an outdoor swimming pool.

The scheme maintains Marseille Fos port authority strategy to preserve and earn income from its heritage property portfolio as a supplement to its core revenue streams.

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