Port of the month

Port of the Month: Port of Marseille-Fos

31 August 2015

This month, we are taking you to the second largest Mediterranean port, the Port of Marseille. The Port of Marseille is not only a very spacious port – it covers an area as big as the city of Paris – it is also using its land for different purposes. So many reasons to visit this all-round port.

ESPO: Can you briefly tell us about the Port of Marseille Fos? What are its main characteristics and challenges?

MARSEILLE FOS: Ideally located on the shores of the Mediterranean, with natural deeply drafted access and quadrimodal connecting links, the Port of Marseille Fos is the French leading port and actively prepares itself to grow as the Southern alternative gateway to European west and north markets.

Covering an area as large as the city of Paris, it has all the required land at its disposal and infrastructures in place to accommodate maritime, logistic and industrial activities.

As a global port, it can handle any type of goods with state-of-the-art dedicated installations: hydrocarbons and bulk liquids (oil, gas and chemical products), general cargo (containers, RORO and small bulk) as well as big solid bulk (minerals, ores and coal, pellets and cereals).

It provides large warehousing facilities on two major logistic dedicated areas near the Fos container terminals, where major international brands have placed their distribution centers (DC) (Ikea, Maisons du Monde, Geodis/ Mattel, etc.) and shelters as well as major industrial plants and complex (refineries, steel industry, chemical industry).

As all other global-scale ports, it can also provide ship-repair activities with nine dry docks including the largest dry dock in Europe: "dry dock 10".

The port also complies with international standards pertaining to passenger, cruise and ferry activities. Over 2.4 million passengers have transited through the port of Marseille Fos in 2014. Within less than ten years, it has become the first cruise port in France and is now number five in the Mediterranean.

The Port offers two harbours: the “Eastern harbour”, located in the city of Marseille and covering 400 hectares, and the “Western harbour”, located in Fos (60 km from Marseille) covering 9 600 hectares.

In 2014, the port of Marseille Fos handled 78,5 millions of tons with an increasing share of general cargo: liquid bulk (47 MT), solid bulk (13 MT), general cargo (18 MT), passengers (2,4 millions) and ship repair. Diversification is on the agenda with a growing share of container traffic (more than 15% growth in two years) reaching 1.2 million teu’s in 2014, with more than 95% share of cargo of European origin/destination. With an ambitious program of investment in the years to come, the port of Marseilles Fos will develop multimodal land accessibility as well as prepare the ground for reindustrialization and logistics growth.


ESPO: The Port of Marseille Fos is an important oil port. Energy is high on the EU political agenda. Is the Port of Marseille Fos developing a strategy to respond to the new challenges in the field of energy, such as an alternative energy mix, energy efficiency and enhancing energy independence?

MARSEILLE FOS: Since 2006, the port of Marseille Fos has coped with a declining oil-related traffic. The liquid bulk share in the total traffic has decreased from 67% in 2006 to 60% in 2014, while the share of the general cargo has grown up to 23%. Anticipating this evolution, the port of Marseille-Fos has facilitated and participated to the emerging of new LNG facilities since the early 2000s,

Nowadays, the port of Marseille Fos pursues the necessary traffic diversification in a context of energy transition and new industry development with innovative projects:

  1. A project development of an area totally dedicated to the assembling of offshore floating wind wheels – EOOS project;
  2. Industrial and Innovative platform in CabanTokin area focusing on circular economy adapted to industry needs – PIICTO Projects;
  3. Participation of the port of Marseille Fos in a CEF submitted project for the implementation of an LNG bunkering station;
  4. Accommodation on the port territory of one of the first LNG truck fuelling station;
  5. Cold ironing for the ferries to/from Corsica in 2016;
  6. On-shore energy supply facilities;
  7. Membership of « Institut d’Economie Circulaire ».

ESPO: What are the main areas of competition that you face from competing EU ports? Are you experiencing a lot of competition of non-EU ports? 

MARSEILLE FOS:The geographical and nautical characteristics of the port of Marseille Fos confer it a special role to play in the European port mapping system. Especially since the successful implementation of the French port reform in 2011, and with the ensuing regained reliability and service regularity, the port of Marseille Fos position on the market is more than ever dedicated to the easy and fluid alternative access to the European market. Today, our port can offer all maritime transport players (small or big) an efficient and competitive alternative to the northern European ports with very efficient transit time gains on major short-sea or deep-sea trades.

ESPO: Marseille is part of the North Sea-Mediterranean Corridor. The Port of Marseille Fos is on the list of pre-identified projects. Broadly, how do you see the TEN-T corridors as being a benefit for ports in the Mediterranean?

MARSEILLE FOS:The port of Marseille Fos has been recognized as a European strategic nexus in the TEN-T program because it provides world class maritime infrastructures and efficient inland connections. It can efficiently help to alleviate some of the congestion bundle in Northern areas and can provide combined massified solutions where transit time gains will be enormous for the supply-chain. The new TEN-T mapping should take the Southern platforms into the overall framework of sea-land transportation mapping, promoting short-sea / rail combination as an efficient alternative to all-truck solution. If only on intra-med sector, but not only, Marseille Fos is a key element to a more efficient, less polluting alternative solution with faster delivery options, the ideal combination.  


ESPO: How does the Port of Marseille Fos estimate the future potential of LNG for the Mediterranean region? Is the port involved in any projects related to LNG?

: As said before, since a long time, the port of Marseille Fos has believed in the future potential of LNG solutions. With two active LNG terminals, the port of Marseille Fos is ready for big growth potential in this sector. As a fuelling alternative for ships, we are also participating to the EU funding project towards the development of LNG bunkering facilities in the Mediterranean.

ESPO: ESPO is a partner of PORTOPIA, a FP7 project that aims to measure port performance. What is Marseille’s approach for measuring the port’s performance?

: We are eager to give our customers some benchmarking process system. As such, we are providing our customers with a number of KPIs, available via our website, which are regularly updated, mainly in the field of container traffic. We are planning to expand the system of benchmarking to other more industrial sectors or to passenger traffic. The process is only starting.


ESPO: The cruise and ferry business is an important activity in your port. What are the main challenges? Do you foresee a bright future for the cruise and ferry business in your port?

MARSEILLE FOS: More than 2.4 million passengers have transited through the port of Marseille in 2014 and this number will continue to increase in the years to come, boosted by the development of cruises in the Med, for which Marseille is becoming one of the most attractive destinations. Traffic is growing so fast that we have to adapt quickly our infrastructures and access solutions. When your terminals have to welcome simultaneously 17 000 passengers and 6 cruise ships, these are some challenges for organisation, safety and security! We constantly have to keep up with the expected high level of service which is owed to our customers. As far as the ferry business is concerned, the main operator to Corsica is in a restructuring phase, but we strongly believe in the market recognition that Marseille is the best location for ferry activity. The North Africa market should also provide some growth potential, with high seasonality which requires high professionalism, but our expertise in this field is not new.

ESPO: Over the last years the Port of Marseille-Fos has strengthened its relation to the inland ports in the hinterland. Do you feel this has enhanced the efficiency of the supply/logistic chain?

MARSEILLE FOS: The cooperation with the inland platforms is a crucial element of the global logistic chain. A port is a gateway, a coordinating entity linking sea and shore and its efficiency should be proved by its ability to get the various players of the supply chain in contact.

Medlink is an association linking seaports on the Rhone river (Marseille-Fos and Sete), 9 inland ports up the river and various key players of the supply chain which has strengthened its coordinating action lately in order to launch very concrete actions in promotion or in facilitating the cargo delivery process. It is a good example of efficiency as we have registered a significant growth of the barge share of container traffic to 22% in 2014.

In the same dynamic, a big share of our investment plan will be dedicated to rail multimodal platform developments, as close as possible to terminal operations, in order to minimize costly transfers, both in Fos and in Marseilles where all terminals are rail connected. The development of massified rail solutions (containerised or not) is also a major objective in order to optimize the energy consumption related to port and maritime transport activity.

In 2014, massified relays (rail or barge) represented 17% of container traffic through our terminals (8,7% railway and 8,3% waterway, respectively +14% and + 22 % in comparison with 2013). Our ambition is to reach 20% by 2020 and 30% by 2030 of modal shift.


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