Thursday, January 17, 2008

France To Outsource Port Operations To Private Sector


The French government on Tuesday announced that it would privatize the operations of the country's nine major ports in an effort to increase cargo handling productivity, triple container traffic by 2015 and create 30,000 jobs.

French Prime Minister Fran├žois Fillon said that the country's ports have deteriorated in terms of competitiveness and facilities. Fillon tasked French Transport Secretary Dominque Bussereau to ready a port reform plan for legislation after France's municipal elections. The plan is expected to be approved in spring.

Fillon eyes increased capacity in French ports from its current 3.5 million TEUs (twenty foot equivalent units) to 10 million TEUs by 2015. "We have lost half of our market share in container traffic during the last 20 years, while the market has seen growth of over five percent annually," Thomson Financial quoted Fillon.

French ports lost significant amounts of cargo due to operational inefficiencies, low productivity and poor infrastructure. Shipping lines have diverted containers to ports such as Zeebrugge and Antwerp in Belgium, and Rotterdam in the Netherlands.

Problems will be discussed "port by port" to take into consideration particular solutions for each port.

The reform plan is also seen to raise France's port activity to "the highest levels in Europe and in the world". This will bring the country's ports closer to the global practice of port privatization, where port assets are owned by port authorities and privately owned terminal operators rent port facilities and employ their own staff.

Fillon added that the reform would be handled through a transparent public international tender and would involve discussions with all port players. "We will pay special attention to port workers," he added.