Freight News, Sea

Dunkirk sets it sights on the North-East

[ January 16, 2015   //   ]

Dunkirk has ambitions of setting up a network of feeder services to the UK, especially to north-east England and Scotland, commercial director Daniel Deschodt told the port’s annual press conference in Lille on 16 January. The port had carried out studies into a number of markets, including services to Ireland, but had concluded that ports in the Humber region held the most promise for short-sea feeder services.

Deschodt added that the UK would be a natural extension of Dunkirk’s current feeder network, which already includes the Baltics and Russia, Iberia and North Africa.

The port already handles a significant amount of UK traffic, but most of it are road trailers using the DFDS ferry services to and from Dover, Deschodt added. The refurbished ferry terminal is due to open later this year.

With deep sea container services to Dunkirk now expanding, including a joint Ocean 3 CMA CGM/Chia Shipping and UASC service from Asia, for which Dunkirk is the first call in Europe, as well as an MSC feeder route – for which a second string will be added in 2015 – the time is ripe for expansion of the port’s container network.

Earlier, new CEO Stephane Raison told the conference that container traffic had risen 7% to a record 312,000teu and, at a conservative estimated, annual traffic would soon top the 330,000teu mark. Ro ro traffic was up 13% at 13.9m tonnes, another record.

He predicted that Dunkirk would soon regain its “natural hinterland” and start to win back traffic for Paris and other parts of France, much of which currently favours Belgian ports. The VAT system was also being tweaked to make improrting through French ports more attractive; until recently, Belgian and Netherlands gateways have had the advantage in this respect.

A new Border Inspection Post for live animals and plants is also to be opened, only the third of its kind in France.

Until recently, Dunkirk was regarded as something of a niche player, serving mainly local industry, with only a small amount of container traffic. But that had changed with the development of the new container terminal, which is still being expanded to handle the largest ships afloat.

Links by block train and barge to the rest of France are also being developed. The Nord Port Shuttle waterway link to Lille and Dourges, launched ion October 2013, and now operated by private sector partners CFT and Terminal de Flandres, is now offering a door-to-door service with onforwarding by road. Greenmodal also doubled the frequency of its shuttle to Bonneuil-dur-Marne, bringing weekly capacity to 180teu in each direction.

The French Government has also committed to build a Seine Nord canal link between northern Europe and the greater Paris region.

Other developments including the opening of a tractor assembly plant by Japanese firm Kubota, with production due to start in April. The plant woll assemble around 3,000 farm tractors a year for the European, North American, Australian and Japanese markets, with components shipped by container from Japan.

The port is also pursuing the development of a LNG ship bunkering facility in conjunction with the ports of Calais and Dover.

In May 2014, CMA CGM added Ust Luga to the schedule of its weekly service to St Petersburg. Dunkirk has developed a transhipment trade for fresh fruit from North Africa to Russia and this has continued unabated – Morocco has not been affected by the sanctions that Russia has slapped on food imports from Europe.