Traffic at France’s HAROPA ports of Le Havre, Rouen and Paris recovered strongly after a first half where results were ravaged by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The port grouping’s annual results were presented on a webinar today (28 January) by Stéphane Raison, the new DG charged with converting the ports into a single port by 1 June this year, and commercial director Laurent Foloppe.
Raison began by referring to the CIMER (Inter-Ministerial Committee of the Sea) meeting that took place in Le Havre on 22 January. At that meeting, French Prime Minister Jean Castex announced a huge €1.45B programme of investments for the ports of the Seine axis for the period 2020-27, corresponding to a doubling of investments in the three ports. And he reiterated the government’s commitment to the 1st June deadline.
For the record, the ports handled an aggregate 108 Mt (-6%) in 2020, of which maritime traffic came to 75 Mt (-16.7%) and river traffic 33 Mt (-3.8 Mt).
On the dry bulk side, traffic was up 5% to 14.5 Mt. This reflected increases in aggregates for construction projects (including for the 2024 Summer Olympics) in the Greater Paris region and, above all, record grain exports over Rouen of 8.77 Mt (+ 6%), to China, other parts of Asia, the Middle East and North Africa.
For the ‘grain year’ (July 2019-June 2020), exports came to 9.9 Mt, also a record, and calendar 2021 is also expected to be a record year. The share of grain transported on the river to the Rouen export quays was up by 6%, to a record 27.1%.
Thanks to channel deepening and terminal improvements, the number of calls by Panamax bulkers at Rouen came to 41, up from 17 just four years ago.
Meanwhile, maritime container traffic was down 14.4% (406,000 TEU) to 2.4M TEU, due largely to a 28% drop in H1 because of the pandemic crisis. In H2 traffic was just 1% down year-on-year and Q4 ran 13% ahead of Q4 2019. This is partly due to the return of CMA CGM’s flagship FAL 1 service (Ocean Alliance) in December, and the launch of the Diamond Line (COSCO) feeder service to Finland and Russia.
However, it also needs to be borne in mind that December 2019 was a poor month for container traffic, as it was the first month of nationwide disruptions due to protests over pension reforms, affecting ports, railways and other sectors. These protests petered out in February 2020, before the pandemic hit.
River-borne container traffic was 16.5% down in 2020, to 383,000 TEU, with the pattern very much reflecting the situation over the maritime quays.