Maritime transport: Opening up French ports to foreign transport

France, known for its maritime vocation due to its coastlines facing the Atlantic Ocean, the North Sea and the Mediterranean, is now reforming its ports to improve its economic attractiveness and competitiveness.

With a cumulated volume of 384.7 million tons (101.6 Mt for the ports of Le Havre and Rouen together, 100 Mt for the port in Marseille), French ports have a great potential for development. They rank behind only Rotterdam (430 Mt), Antwerp (200 Mt) and Hamburg (140 Mt). Sea links as well as recently established inter-European cabotage links contribute to French port development. 72% of France's imports and exports are transported by sea. Today, French shipping companies include Cetragpa, Marfret, Socatra, Bourbon, Louis Dreyfus, Geogas, Compagnie Maritime Nantaise. The CMA GCM alone accounts for more than half of French tonnage.

The ports of Le Havre (Port 2000 Le Havre) and of Marseille (Fos 2 XL Marseille) have already made strategic development investments to adapt to the revolutions in maritime transport (massive transport of fossil fuels, such as coal, iron and ore, generalization of container transport and concentration of traffic within leading ports). These ports have become the main interface between maritime and terrestrial transport systems (railway, road, river transport).

The French government wants to modernize the ports and allow companies to make better and more frequent use of them. The law dated July 4, 2008 streamlines port organization and implements an ambitious strategy of economic development. As the law opens up port concessions, port management and development can now be entrusted to private operators or new partnerships between public and private agents. The personnel involved in handling and equipment activities will now also be managed by private operators, including operators from foreign countries. Many of these operators are already present in port services, shipping and onward delivery transport. They include Prologis, Gazeley, Daher, Katoen Natie, SDV, DHL, Schenker and Dresser.

According to Philippe Favre, CEO of Invest in France Agency: "The government wants to reinforce the competitiveness and productivity of French ports. This means active significant investments (€ 445 million budgeted up to 2013) and private operators to increase average annual traffic from 3.5 to 10 million containers by 2015."

Invest in France Agency promotes and facilitates international investment in France. The IFA network operates worldwide. IFA works in partnership with regional development agencies to offer international investors business opportunities and customized services all over France.

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# 1(27), 2009