French ports form alliance to boost trade

Updated: 2012-01-21 08:23

By Fu Jing (China Daily)

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PARIS - The ports of Paris, Rouen and Le Havre agreed to form an alliance on Thursday, aiming to better compete with other European ports and to further boost trade between China and France.

The ports also announced the creation of a major port complex, as part of the Grand Paris project.

"I think streamlining the three ports will be of great interest to our Chinese partners," said Laurent Castaing, managing director of Le Havre Port in northern France.

According to data from Le Havre Port, trade volume with China increased by 20 percent annually over the last four years. The three ports handled a total of 94 million tons of cargo last year, down 4 percent from 2010.

Nearly 67 percent of that figure was from East Asia and more than one-third was from China.

The alliance has set up direct routes with 14 ports in China, including Shanghai and Ningbo.

In recent years, several gateways have been constructed to facilitate trade between China and Europe. In Greece, China is leasing ports in Athens and has increased cooperation with Western European ports.

Recently, Hungary has requested Chinese assistance in building maritime gateways for Eastern European countries to reduce freight costs and the region's reliance on ports in Western Europe.

In May, Belgium and China launched a freight rail line linking the Port of Antwerp and the southeastern Chinese city of Chongqing.

"We will try our every possible means to build up our collective competitiveness," Castaing said.

Vessels containing millions of containers of Chinese shoes, clothes, furniture, toys and other products are shipped to French ports, and return to China with French wine, spirits and other luxury goods.

The alliance will improve access to the port of Rouen, which is 120 kilometers from the mouth of the Seine River, and will update facilities to allow handling of new generation bulk carriers up to 58,000 deadweight tonnage.

The alliance also announced that there are 14,000 hectares of available and reserved land intended for logistics and industrial use along the ports. It believes Chinese investors will be attracted to the Greater Paris region as it holds more than 25 million consumers.

The alliance's plan is expected to have a direct effect on France's economy. The three ports directly support 40,000 jobs and 120,000 indirectly.

"The ports of the Seine axis (Le Havre, Rouen, Caen and Paris) are undisputed actors in the environmental transformation of logistics as part of the Grand Paris development project and the industrial renewal taking place in the region," said Jean-Francois Dalaise, board chairman of the port of Paris.

China Daily