Annual traffic totaling 50 million metric tons of liquid petroleum and gas, 17.3 million tons of containers and roll-on/roll-off cargo, and 13.1 million tons of solid bulk cargo makes the Marseille-Fos complex the world’s third largest port. According to Ferry-To-France port reviews, the site is the biggest petrochemical hub in southern Europe, with 5% of all European petrochemical industry plants. The Ports in this complex are located on the southern coast of France in the Provence region just west of the French Riviera and serve Southern Europe and Mediterranean countries. It is just 200 nautical miles northeast of Barcelona, Spain. The industrial port zone extends to the banks of the Etang de Berre salt lagoon and has become a major logistics and ship traffic center.
An extensive road system, a freight rail network, TGV high-speed rail links, the Marseille-Provence International Airport, and a high-capacity inland waterway make this area a strategic crossroads and gateway to Europe. The Port is the only one in Southern Europe to offer tri-modal transport – road, rivers and rail. A pipeline is used to transfer petroleum to Paris. Container giant CMA CGM and the sub-sea engineering and hydraulic systems firm, Comex, are based there.
The port complex is managed by the Marseille-Fos Port Authority and is officially named Grand port maritime de Marseille (Great seaport of Marseille). There are two harbor areas under the Authority's purview: the Eastern Harbor Area (Port of Marseilles) and the Western Harbor Area (Berre, Port de Bouc, Lavera, Fos, and Port St. Louis du Rhone). The main harbors are Marseille, Lavera and Fos. Marseille handles passengers, general cargo and ship repairs. Lavera is focused on the movement and storage of petroleum and other liquid fuels. Fos is mainly devoted to crude oil and container-related vessels.
Marseille has a long history and was established in 600 BC as Massalia by the Greeks as a trading port, making it France's oldest city. Until the 19th century, the Old Port of Marseille was the center of maritime trade. According to Ship-Technology.com, the East and West harbors that are northwest of the Old Port now cover 10,400 acres and handle about 100 million tons of freight annually. The historic Old Port is now used as a marina, a depot for local boat trip rentals, and the regional fishing industry.
Its strategic sheltered location on the Mediterranean might be considered an optimal nautical situation (low amplitude tides and a location outside of busy port traffic). The Port receives LNG ships from North Africa, the Middle East, and West Africa. Since 2010, it has handled over 180 tanker vessels.
It is possible to sail to Algeria in 1-1/2 days, Greece in 3 days, Brazil in 12 days, the United States in 13 days, the Indian Ocean in 18 days, Asia in 23 days and Australia in 34 days from Marseille-Fos.
Fos-su-Mer (also called Marseille-Fos) is the first European site to produce LNG (Liquefied Natural Gas), and supplies it to all of Southern Europe. In August, 2013, Fos Cavaou's LNG terminal received a Q-Max (Qatar Max) tanker, the Al Mafyar. Q-Max tankers can carry up to 266,000 cubic meters of LNG. They have on-board liquefaction units, diesel engines, and can reduce shipping costs by 20-30%. This was a first for the port and the terminal prepared by carrying out simulations for vessel approach and ship-tracking as well as berthing with docking pilots, the Harbor Master's Office, and Fosmax LNG which controls Fos' business matters.
Container throughput at this port measured 1,062,408 TEU in 2013. In June, 2013, Fos received a container ship from Busan, South Korea, with the capacity to carry 16,000 TEU, the CMA CGM Jules Verne -- one of only three in the world of this size. It is 396 meters long by 54 meters wide. 2015 will mark the visit of the world's largest cruise ship, Allure of the Seas, to Fos. The enormous ship plans to dock regularly in Fos with 22 planned visits during the year.
Located at the head of the Rhone channel, the Port of Marseille-Fos receives tankers that will make their way up the River Rhone. There are deep-water stations and a river station with fueling and re-fueling facilities. The dedicated ore terminal handles cargoes of bauxite, coal, and petroleum coke. Solid bulk cargoes (like cereal and peat) are handled in the Tellines Basin.
The nearby Port of Lavera is the only French site where ethylene oxide is produced. There are underground facilities for liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) totalling 400+ thousand cubic meters. Chemical liquid bulk cargoes (such as styrene, propylene, ethylene, methanol, soda) are handled there, and imports/exports of propane, commerical butane and chemical butane are managed there.
There are numerous terminals in the complex with four dedicated roll-on/roll-off terminals. The Moureplane Container Terminal receives Panamax container vessels in five berthing stations on 962 meters of quay – current capacity is 250 thousand TEUs annually. The Southern and Northern Terminals handle mixed cargo. The Graveleau Terminal has six over-Panamax gantry cranes and two Panamax gantries. The Bulk Alumina Terminal in the East basin unloads cargoes of calcined and hydrated alumina. The Tellines Port is devoted to the export of cereals from the Rhone-Alps and Burgundy regions via inland waterways.
Refineries in the Fos-Lavera industrial region include the following with their capabilities listed: Total SA's 158000 bpd La Mede Refinery; Exxon Mobil Corporation's 119,000 bpd Fos-sur-Mer plant; LyondellBasell Industries' Berre l”Etang refinery; and Ineos PLC's 207,000 bpd Lavera plant.
The Port area is highly industrialized and constantly in motion with containerized, bulk cargo and crude oil traffic. This major port attracts heavy steel, chemical and oil industry activity and in recent years it has been criticized for lax environmental security. Fos-sur-Mer is considered one of Europe's most polluted towns.