Plans to expand the Port of Calais have been unveiled, giving the port the capacity to handle larger vessels, as well as increased facilities to cope with the demands it hopes to see in passenger and shortsea container ships. Backed by the Nord Pas de Calais Regional Council, who own the port, the ambitious plans will see the port gain 90 hectares of new quayage, as well as a new seawall and quayside rail terminal.
The port, already the largest in mainland Europe, apparently hopes to attract logistics and freight companies to the area, in direct competition to other established ports such as Rotterdam, Le Havre and Antwerp. On this side of the channel, the plans are seen as competition for Dover, which the Nord Pas de Calais Regional Council failed to purchase the English port in December after the sale was dropped by the Government.
Until now, the ports of Calais and Boulogne, both owned by Nord Pas de Calais Regional Council, have been managed under separate concessions by the Chamber of Commerce, but the new plans will bring them both under one concession for what is likely to be 50 years. Jean Marc Puissesseau, president of the chamber, insists that Dover and the UK will benefit from the investment being made to Calais. “Calais operates only with Dover,” he said. “Our main, principal and exclusive destination is Dover.
“All that is good for Calais is good for Dover. I think we will expand together. Don’t forget it’s the entente cordiale.”
It’s estimated the planned upgrades will cost £342 million invested over the next five years in a series of phases, all of which is expected to be raised through a combination of a cash injection from the port’s owner, debt and European funds. Phase One will begin in September, with construction on a 160-hectare industrial park that is hoped to become the base for freight and logistics. Franck-Edouard Tiberghien, of Calais’ port development and strategy department, explained: “The concept is to build a new breakwater and new ferry berths. Later on we could develop more ro-ro berths and even container berths; these would not be deepsea, but to handle shortsea containers. However, we are very specialised in trade between England and the Continent and the focus remains on ferries and ro-ro – it isn’t to compete with the giant container ports.”
It is expected that the first berth will be operational by 2019.