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The health crisis in the Maghreb impacts the results of the port of Marseille




Passenger connections between Marseille and Algeria have been interrupted (photo: B.L.)
Passenger connections between Marseille and Algeria have been interrupted (photo: B.L.)
FRANCE. "Despite this horrific year, the Port of Marseille-Fos has resisted well", says Elisabeth Ayrault, vice-president of the Supervisory Board of the Grand Port Maritime de Marseille-Fos (GPMM). Assuming the interim presidency while waiting for the French State to appoint a successor to Jean-Marc Forneri, who died suddenly at the end of December 2020, she assured, during the presentation of the GPMM's 2020 balance sheet on Monday 25 January 2021, that "the port has shown its capacity to respond to crises and has proved that it remains at the heart of the country's supply".

In 2020, the port recorded a turnover of €145 million. This is a 14% drop (against 20% anticipated in July) compared to the previous financial year, after six consecutive years of growth. Total traffic amounted to 69.2 million tonnes (-12.7%), including 41 million tonnes of liquid bulk (-11% compared with 2019), 18.3 million tonnes of general cargo (-11%) and 9.9 million tonnes (-22%) of solid bulk.

Although the GPMM received 8,500 cargo ship calls, i.e. 23 per day in 2020 (18 at the time of the first containment) compared with 25 in 2019, "the situation remains tense", Chantal Helman admits. However, as a member of the board of directors, she sees "a glimmer of hope" in noting the six new routes opened in 2020, all of which concern Mediterranean countries (Algeria, Morocco, Turkey and Libya) and strong demand for the Tangiers-Marseilles route operated by La Méridionale since the beginning of December 2020 at a rate of three calls a week.

Another positive point, the agro-food sector is up by 6% compared with 2019 thanks to Algeria's cereal campaigns. On another segment, the new vehicles, the cars coming from the Renault factory of Kenitra in Morocco have, certainly also with the new Hyundai traffic, helped to offset the decline of the French market and leave it in balance.

100,000 cruise passengers in 2020 against 1.8 million in 2019

Passenger activity has completely collapsed with the loss of 76% of passengers. The connections with Algeria and Tunisia achieved the most significant decreases, ahead of Corsica and its -28%, with respectively -89% and -55% of the number of passengers. Passenger traffic on the Maghreb has gone from 635,000 to 153,000. And the future remains rather gloomy. If the regular rotations of passenger ships towards Tunisia have been able to gradually resume, like those with Corsica, Algeria maintains, until further notice, a policy of closing its borders to better fight against the spread of the coronavirus.

However, the GPMM has not given up restructuring the Corsican and Maghreb terminals at Cap Janet. Work started in September 2020 to create a new maritime station dedicated to ferries to and from the Maghreb. It will benefit from an investment of €6.7m, to which will be added investments by local authorities, notably to create road accesses, bringing the total to more than €55m. The infrastructures will be "fully operational by the end of 2022-early 2023", according to Hervé Martel, the port's director.

Since the beginning of 2021, passenger activity has fallen by 19%. In December 2020, only 1,526 passengers passed through the port of Marseille. The greatest concern comes from the cruise activity, the spearhead of the development of passenger traffic in Marseille, with dates of resumption constantly postponed. In all, less than 100,000 cruise passengers will have set foot on the Phocean quay in 2020 against 1.8 million the previous year. The GPMM notes a domino effect on ship repair (-41% for dry ships and -52% for those afloat). The sector could lose 16,000 jobs at regional level.

 

100% commercialisation of logistics zones

In spite of the health crisis, at the beginning of July 2020, Hervé Martel announced that he wanted to "maintain all investment operations". However, out of a programmed amount of €57 million in 2020, €51 million has actually been committed this year. 350 operations have been carried out, with €27 million devoted to the development of the port and €24 million to the maintenance of port facilities.

"We have to prepare the way out of the crisis, all the more so as our activities are continuing. We will therefore not call our investments into question", assures Elisabeth Ayrault. 342 M€ will therefore be released for the Port of Marseille between now and 2024, mainly in the optimisation of the combined transport hub of Mourepiane (Marseille) and a new port services zone in the Fos dock basins.

Hervé Martel is delighted that "100% of the available surface areas of the Port's two logistics zones will now be commercialised", with a surface area of more than 3 million m². The last Distriport lots were sold to Virtuo in April 2020, while Médiaco is continuing work on its 70,000 m² warehouse and IDEC Life is starting work on a third 90,000 m² warehouse for ADEO on the La Feuillane site. 200,000 sq.m will be delivered in four buildings during 2021.

The GPMM will present its new strategic plan to the Supervisory Board, probably in March 2021. As explained by its vice-president, it will be based on three main ideas: a development port (integration of the port into the city of Marseille), a development port (in particular with wind, solar and LNG) and an entrepreneurial port (creation of subsidiaries).

Frédéric Dubessy


Monday, January 25th 2021



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