Marseille goes intermodal


Port operator Grand Port Maritime de Marseille (GPMM) is positioning its eastern basin as the major transhipment hub for the Mediterranean, by creating a combined-transport terminal that will provide improved links to the rest of Europe.

Although the facility can only take vessels up to 7,000teu, the port authority believes its location, facilities and improvements in productivity made since the French port reforms last year are enough to bring back much-needed traffic.

“Our Med Europe terminal is only 50% full,” said Jean-Claude Terrier, MD of GPMM. “We have plenty of space and are increasing our 120 reefer points to cater for perishables traffic coming up from North Africa, Spain and Italy.”

The eastern basin has welcomed three new services this year – Nolis to Algeria and Libya and Messina and South and East Africa – but it is not enough.

The combined-transport facility, supported both by the French government and by French shipping group CMA CGM, which will be a 50% shareholder, will increase rail links to France, Germany and Belgium.

Marseille is already seen as part of Europe’s “green corridors”. One train a day links the eastern docks with Lyon and two a week run from Marseille to Dourges and Bonneuil in the north of France. This does not include rail services to and from Fos.

Services to Lyon are expected to increase to five a week, enabling shippers to tranship in Lyon for rail links to Le Havre, Rouen, Rennes, Basle, Ludwigshafen and, from November, Duisburg.

“We are working out who will do what at the terminal and how much each investor will contribute,” says Terrier.

“We are even considering putting in a second rail track, so we will not be affected by any difficulties occurring with our original track.

“So far we have spent €60 million in combined transport at the eastern docks, but we need to have the links in place to attract more business.”