MARSEILLES is the latest Mediterranean port to attempt the overthrow of the counter-intuitive yet dominant practice of Asian cargo using northern European ports rather than closer southern ports.
The French port aims to become Europe's principal gateway, announcing plans to spend EUR360 million (US$424 million) to boost annual throughput 11 per cent to 86.5 million tonnes by 2018, reports IHS Maritime 360.
Because big affluent populations, road and rail links are in the north, most ships from Asia sail from Suez to Gibraltar skipping southern ports to go around the Iberian Peninsula to reach English Channel, North Sea and Baltic ports.
Other southern ports, notably Barcelona, have made such marketing moves. Venice and the top of the Adriatic has recently launched an ambitious plan using its proximity and road and rail networks to reach Milan, Budapest and Geneva to advantage Cosco Pacific's Piraeus port near Athens is making similar moves.
Another factor that came into play on January 1 is the low sulphur fuel rule which makes bunker 50 per cent more expensive in the English Channel, North Sea and the Baltic - but not in the Med or the Irish Sea.
This was expected to have a more pronounced effect than it has had because of falling oil prices. Even so, it makes northern range ports of the English Channel, North Sea and Baltic more expensive, thus making Med ports more attractive.
The City of Marseilles, where Mediterranean services are concentrated, is to get a new multimodal container terminal, while the port's Fos deepwater box shop is to have its berthing capacity and rail and road facilities upgraded.
Last year, the port's overall traffic throughput fell two per cent to 78.5 million tonnes, largely as a result of an eight per cent reduction in crude oil imports to 25.1 million tonnes, which the port sees as part of a long-term trend.
Container throughput increased seven per cent to 1.17 million TEU, while solid bulk rose by two per cent to 13.4 million tonnes on the back of a strong performance by the local steel industry.
Source : HKSG.