Marseille eyes lost traffic


Marseille port authority is expanding its Fos container terminal in an effort to not only regain traffic lost during years of industrial action and poor productivity, but to position the port as a major gateway for Europe

Two new container terminals, Terminal de Mediterranee and Terminal Seayard, together known as Fos 2XL, began operations in May 2011 and March this year, respectively, doubling the port’s capacity to two million teu. Dredging was carried out to ensure Fos can accommodate the 14,000teu vessels now operating from the Far East.

The €430 million investment, which includes rail links and four super-post-panamax gantry cranes, will be dwarfed, however, by Fos 4XL, due to open in 2020 on a 54ha site and be operated by Hutchison Port Holdings.

Marseille was the first port in southern Europe to make extensive use of barge transhipment and to improve connections to the hinterland – a second canal linking Fos with the Rhone is being constructed. 

Road and rail improvements – including one additional container loop a week to Portes les Valence – will also speed up the movement of boxes to and from the rest of France and other European destinations. 

A new rail shuttle to Switzerland is being considered, too, in an effort to win back Swiss traffic lost over the last few years. 

Jaap van den Hoogen, President of the Association of Shipping Agents and Consignees in Marseille, said: “Over 90% of Swiss traffic used to go through Marseille. We need to get it back.”

Shipping lines MSC and UASC/China Shipping have returned to Fos this year, and new services were begun by Arkas to Turkey, Valmer Lines to Israel, and Marfret/CMA CGM to the Caribbean. Other lines, including Maersk, CMA-CGM, Hapag Lloyd and Hanjin, increased capacity.

“Marseille is in a unique position for ships coming from the Far East,” said Nicolas Gauthier, MD of the Eurofos terminal. “We already run good barge services to Lyon and Paris and see no reason why these can’t be extended into Germany and beyond.”