An agreement confirmed last week for Maersk Line to include direct calls at Marseille Fos on its ME2 Western Mediterranean-Middle East service has been welcomed by the leading French port as a double sign of confidence – coming just a week after the Danish carrier launched a new direct Med-Canada link that also features Fos.
ME2 calls at Fos start on July 10 and will be handled at the Seayard terminal. At a meeting to finalise the latest collaboration, port CEO Christine Cabau Woehrel said: “It’s a great pleasure to see the blue ships of the world’s leading container carrier in our port again. This development comes at the right time to underline the dynamic growth of the Fos container terminals – up 10% in 2017, the sixth consecutive year of increase. The support and confidence of the Maersk Group with the almost simultaneous arrival of two new services is also a strong sign for our growth in 2018 and proves the effectiveness of our offer.”
Maersk Line global commercial director Vincent Clerc noted: “France is a strategic market for us because its know-how is exported to all four corners of the globe. That’s why we have expanded our offer from Marseille Fos following customer demand and with the port authority’s assistance.”
Claus Ellemann-Jensen, chairman and managing director of Maersk Line France, added: “We are back in the South of France. As a global integrator of logistics solutions, we aim to facilitate the development of our customers by opening up key markets for their activities.”
Serving the main Middle East markets, the seven-ship ME2 rotation calls at Fos, Genoa, Port Said, Jeddah, Salalah, Jebel Ali, Dammam, Al Jubayl and Abu Dhabi. With improved transit times, the service also offers efficient connections to the Indian sub-continent. Exports from the Mediterranean to the Gulf and India rose 9% in Q1 this year. In particular, trade between France and India was worth €8.9 billion in 2017 - led by exports of machine tools, agricultural produce, metals, cars and chemicals – and looks set to grow in the coming years, notably with the support of monetary reforms.
Imports efficiency from various Asian origins will be enhanced by the Port Said connection. ME2 will also allow improved reliability on the existing service between the South of France and the Indian Ocean islands. Transit times will be cut from 29 to 19 days for Port Reunion, where developing growth is beginning to spread to other islands, especially Maurice.
Shanghai deal at Belt & Road forum underlines Marseille Fos potential
In line with its aim to develop relations with China on logistics and industrial projects, the Marseille Fos port authority has signed an operational cooperation agreement with the Shanghai International Port Group focused on harmonising long-distance trade flows and reducing the environmental impact of port-related activity.
The agreement was signed in Marseille on May 31 when the port organised a major forum on its place in the New Silk Roads network – a reference to China’s Belt & Road Initiative (BRI) to expand infrastructure, trade and investment links with Europe.
The event took place under the patronage of former prime minister of France Jean-Pierre Raffarin, now the government’s special representative for China. Others attending included China’s ambassador to France, leaders and officials from French regional and national government, senior business executives, academics and representatives from the French maritime cluster. Marseille Fos was represented by supervisory board chairman Jean-Marc Forneri and CEO Christine Cabau Woehrel, who were joined by port of Shanghai VP Ding Xiangming.
Round table discussions at the forum explored the strong potential for Marseille Fos within the BRI, which places the Mediterranean at the centre of a maritime stage covering Europe, Asia and Africa. Topics included the port territory’s economic attractions, opportunities for joint Franco-Chinese projects and the region’s growing role in durable trans-ocean trade flows with China.
Delegates heard that the port is positioning itself as the alternative southern gateway to European markets – backed by a current investment plan of €360 million over five years – and is highly welcoming to new logistics and industrial projects from international investors such as China’s Quechen Silicon Chemical Company, the world’s third largest silica producer, which is among several Chinese investors that have already taken an active interest in Marseille Fos. The development of rail links to north-west Europe has also emerged as an important priority by offering a transit time reduction of five or six days compared with sailing from Asia to ports in the northern range.