Thursday, March 12, 2020

French Port Defines 2019 as it Looks Forward to This Year's Investment

Traffic Changeable and Virus Uncertainty May Take a Toll
Shipping News Feature

FRANCE – Last month the Port of Dunkerque was forced to cancel its annual press conference due to the ongoing travails caused by the work to rule policy by French Customs officers who were protesting at the 'extra work' which they foresaw being produced by the UK exit from the EU (despite no changes in their shifts). The Port however is a key facility for the logistics community in the north of the country and so its progress, or otherwise, is still relevant.

Obviously as we balance on the viral cliff edge all bets are off as to what the economic picture might be in three months, but certainly as far as Dunkerque was concerned, 2019 was a year of mixed fortunes, with management eyes firmly fixed on investment in the future.

In 2020, Dunkerque-Port will deploy an investment program of €37.7 million. The authorities say the year will be devoted to the completion and handover of the major logistics and industrial platforms. It will also see the start of the first operations of the 2019-2023 Strategic Project, with in particular the launch of work on the new building intended to house the Border Police (PAF) and the United Kingdom Border Force (UKBF), and the creation of a new electrical substation in the West port.

With an overall budget of €37.7 million approved by the Supervisory Board on 21 November 2019, for Dunkerque-Port 2020 will be a milestone year. The year will be devoted to the completion and handover of the major logistics and industrial platforms.

  • Completion of development work on the Heavy Industries zone: €4.55 million
  • Completion of the development work on the Dunkerque International Logistics South area: €2.97 million
  • Construction of the approach roads to the SNF platform: €1.32 million: 2020 will also see the start of the first operations of the 2019-2023 Strategic Project:
  • Creation of a new building to house the Border Police and the United Kingdom Border Force: €3. million
  • Creation of a new electrical substation in the West Port: €2 million

The studies for the CAP 2020 project will continue in the pre-project phase, representing an investment of €2.66 million.

To implement this investment programme, Dunkerque-Port will once again rely on the support of its partners, in particular the French government and the Hauts-de-France Regional Council within the framework of the State - Region 2015 - 2020 development contract, the European Union, the Dunkerque Metropolitan Authority, the Water Board and the UKBF.

2019 was marked by the commissioning of the extension to the Quai de Flandre in the West Port. The completion of the operation is a major step in the further development of the container sector in Dunkerque. Dunkerque-Port can now simultaneously berth two of the largest ships in the world fleet under optimal conditions. A shore side electricity supply has been developed as the same time. It has been available since spring 2019. Dunkerque-Port is thus the first French port to provide users of a container terminal with a shore side electricity supply.

In 2019, Dunkerque-Port also finalised the work involved in separating the port rail network and the national rail network. Costing more than €18 million, the operation involved aligning the operating areas of the signal boxes at the border points of the two networks. This means port rail installations can now be managed and modified without calling on the French Railway Board (SNCF).

During the year, development work on the Dunkerque Logistics International South zone (DLI-South) and the Heavy Industries zone (ZGI) continued, as did the preparation of the industrial platform for SNF Floerger which is investing €60 million in the Dunkerque region, creating 100 jobs. In addition, Dunkerque-Port started to deploy its management plan for coastline protection with a sand refill of 1.2 million m3, representing an investment of €3 million. This major new operation to protect the coastline, carried out using a discharge line for the dredged sand acquired by the Port at the start of the year, will be regularly renewed with volumes of up to 2 million m3/year. In all, in 2019, Dunkerque-Port invested more than €42 million.

The Port says the wealth of the local economic fabric, the development of maritime and overland trade links, the presence of numerous networks (electricity, gas, drinking water, industrial water, optical fibre, oxygen, hydrogen, nitrogen, etc.) and the vast extent of available land (3000 ha) including 300 ha of ‘plug and play’ land under construction, are all reasons cited by decision-makers to explain their choices.

2019 was marked by several highlights such as: the construction and operation of the 24h FROST warehouse; the obtaining of administrative permits for the industrialist SNF Floeger; construction of the Indaver industrial site and Mahieu company site; laying the first stone of the Norfrigo warehouse. Also worth noting was the signing of a cooperation agreement between ENEDIS and RTE to build a new electrical substation which will save time and money for new facilities setting-up on-site.

Turning to the 2019 figures of cargo actually moved we see a mixed set of results. The port's annual traffic reached 53 million tonnes (MT), up 3% from 2018 (51.6 MT). Over the past 5 years, growth in traffic has reached 22% (43.50 MT in 2013). In the container sector, the significant increase in volumes handled at Dunkerque-Port is also in line with the trend observed in recent years (450,000 TEU, + 7% / 2018 & + 54% / 2013). This increase is due in particular to Dunkerque's positioning as a transhipment hub.

General cargo was reasonably stable at 20.1 MT. There was a downturn in Cross-Channel traffic (15 MT) which the Port claims is a result of the market preparing for Brexit: the number of trucks and trailers decreased by 2% to 583,000 freight units while that of passenger cars stood at 579,000 vehicles (-16%). Passenger traffic dropped 11% to 2,341,000 travellers. Break-bulk cargo posted good figures (1.2 MT, + 9%).

Solid bulk was down 9% to stand at 23.5 MT. The economic downturn currently affecting the European steel industry is weighing on the ore and coal traffic which fell by 10% and 19% respectively to 13.3 MT and 5.3 MT. The coal sector is also undergoing the more structural effect of the drop in demand for steam coal. Boosted by a good start to the 2019/2020 campaign, grain trading posted a significant increase of 43% at 2 MT. Traffic in ‘small’ solid bulk fell 9% (2.9 MT)

Liquid bulk rose very sharply by 71% to 9.4 MT, driven by a very high level of LNG trading. The new LNG terminal berthed 72 port calls over the full year representing a total traffic of 5.1 MT (+ 320%). Overall, gas traffic (LNG + industrial gas) posted a gain of 232% at 5.6 MT. Petroleum products were down 2% at 3.34 MT, while other liquid bulk posted growth of 4% to stand at 0.5 MT.

During 2019 the Structural and Sustainable Development Plan (PA2D) 2.0 was updated to include a Corporate Social Responsibility component after obtaining PERS (Port Environmental Review System) certification in 2018. The new version of PA2D 2.0, finalised early in 2020, will set the main environmental objectives for the port for the 2019-2023 period.

In parallel, the Natural Heritage Master Plan (SDPN) will also be updated in 2020 as part of the CAP2020 project in order to consolidate the Green and Blue Belt network of the port. One of the major points of the update is the confirmation of the zones as ‘sanctuaries’ for compensatory measures carried out so far by the port.

Additionally of course, alongside all these major projects, Dunkerque-Port says will continue its efforts to maintain the follow-on support for its assets, with a major maintenance programme on its facilities (wharves, locks, river structures and upgrading of buildings to standards) as and when required.

The authorities say 2020 should also be particularly dynamic, as several sites currently under construction enter the operating phase, notably Indachlor, Mahieu and Norfrigo. Other projects are to enter the construction phase such as SNF, DMT (industry), SFAN (logistics), Bogaert (logistics) or the Clarebout Company (industry) which announced last December its intention to also invest massively in Dunkerque. Finally, 2020 will be an administrative year for the H2V and GRIDLINK projects which plan to submit their authorisation applications in order to begin their examination by French government departments.

Photo: Ore carrier discharging cargo at the Western Bulk Terminal. Courtesy Port of Dunkerque.