Marseille Fos and Le Havre to link in Swiss rail shuttle

Logistics, News, Ports & Terminals, Rail — By on January 12, 2018 at 9:21 PM

Provence Promotion head Philippe Stéfanini, Marseille Fos CEO Christine Cabau Woehrel, French finance minister Bruno Le Maire and Que Weidong, founder and CEO of Quechen Silicon, with his wife

A rail shuttle container service linking the major French ports of Marseille Fos and Le Havre with Switzerland is being launched in mid-March in a joint initiative with intermodal operator Naviland Cargo.

Operating three times per week, the service will run to the Swiss terminal of Chavornay – in the French-speaking region near Lausanne – after connecting rail shuttles from each port at the Dijon Gevrey facility in mid-France.

Currently the French ports handle only a fraction of Switzerland’s box traffic, which has an estimated potential of 350,000 to 400,000 teu per year. The new service is expected to capture a significant share of the market due to reduced transit times – notably for trades via the Mediterranean served by Marseille Fos and for Le Havre’s traffic with North and South America.

The initiative meets long-awaited demand from logistics professionals and strengthens a strategy encouraged by the French government to extend the port hinterlands beyond national borders into the rest of Europe. Strong backing for the project has also come from the regional councils of Provence Alpes Côte d’Azur and Normandy, which are considering financial support.

Chinese chemicals firm plans European base at Marseille Fos

The port of Marseille Fos is set to become the location of the largest Chinese-owned factory in France after signing a letter of intent with Quechen Silicon Chemical, the world’s third biggest producer of silica for use in making ‘green’ vehicle tyres.

Costing around €100 million and creating 130 jobs, the planned project involves construction of a research & development centre as well as the production plant. The main output would be 90,000 tonnes per year of Highly Disposable Silica (HDS) – among the largest capacities in the world – for so-called green tyres, which reduce rolling resistance, cut fuel consumption and improve grip.

Signatories to the plan included two other project partners – French chemicals group Kem One, which has two of its eight plants at the port, and the Provence economic promotion agency.

The signing took place in Beijing on January 9 during a state visit by French president Emmanuel Macron. It launches the final phase of negotiations with the Chinese company, which has spent almost two years researching 28 potential sites as its European base. All parties expressed total confidence in reaching the detailed agreement now required to accelerate implementation of the project.

As the premier port-industrial complex in France, Marseille Fos offers facilities in line with Quechen Silicon’s globalisation aims. In responding to growing demand from tyre manufacturers in Europe, the company is pursuing an international development strategy establishing factories within close reach of its customers.

Signing on behalf of the port, CEO Christine Cabau Woehrel said: “The investment by Quechen Silicon will require plentiful resources in terms of land, energy supply, industrial water and international connectivity. Our port offers these major assets for international investors looking to prosper not only on a European scale but also in Africa and the Middle East.”

Witnesses to the ceremony included the French foreign affairs and finance ministers together with China’s commerce minister and vice-minister for foreign affairs.

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