“A major river and maritime axis, which Colbert perhaps would have dreamed of, as if the prospect of the Louvre continued as far as the grand quai du Havre.” Jean Castex wanted to be lyrical in January, when the announcement of the merger of the three ports of Le Havre, Rouen and Paris. The Prime Minister’s analogy seems presumptuous, but the creation of this new port complex, planned for a long time and effective since June 1 under the name of “Haropa Port”, reflects the interest of the public authorities in river transport, in order to to better face European competition and the climate crisis.
Will the merger of the ports of Le Havre, Rouen and Paris put the French ports back on the European map?
During his visit in January to Le Havre, the locomotive of the three places which houses the headquarters of Haropa, Castex had announced 1.45 billion euros of investments over seven years. Sufficient? If the seaports of Le Havre and Rouen, specializing in cereals, and the river port of Paris, have merged, it is in order, if not to compete in the short term with those of Antwerp or Rotterdam, to try to modify certain power struggles. “The possibility that the port of Le Havre, entry and exit point for import-export from our country with Marseille, is relegated to a secondary role on a European scale can no longer be ruled out”, had attacked the Montaigne Institute in a study published last year. A problem that goes beyond the Seine. With its 5 million containers per year according to OECD figures in 2017, France does half as much as its Italian neighbors and three times less than the Germans or the Spaniards, leaders in Europe. And Rotterdam or Antwerp alone weigh 14 and 12 million containers. “I am not satisfied that half of French container traffic goes through foreign ports”, sighs Stéphane Raison, chairman of the Haropa management board and former managing director of the port of Dunkirk. Competition will also be internal since the Seine-Nord canal, which will link Dunkirk to Compiègne, must be put into service before 2030. An impoundment that worries the actors of the Seine.
The merger therefore makes sense. “With the GIE [l’ancienne structure qui regroupait les trois entités, ndlr], each port kept its autonomy and its own budget, explains Stéphane Raison. Today, there is a single direction, a single budget and soon a joint pricing policy. ” This structure will have 1,800 employees (1,200 in Le Havre, 400 in Rouen and 200 in Paris). On January 27, a “Social guarantee agreement [de] employees” was signed, notably with the powerful CGT Ports et Docks, and Stéphane Raison promised that no layoffs or forced geographic mobility would take place.
What is the issue in terms of ecological transition?
The containers and the gigantic ships that transport them enjoy a bad reputation in terms of their carbon footprint. Yet the freight “of surface” emitted 2,230 million tonnes of CO2 in 2017, compared to 929 million tonnes for air and sea freight combined, according to OECD data. Putting goods on ships rather than trucks seems to be a step in the right direction. Haropa must also receive 71 million euros out of the 175 million euros allocated to the greening of ports by the government’s recovery plan. “All the big cities are realizing, with the establishment of low emission zones (ZFE) that the system of all polluting trucks in the cities is exceeded in the medium term, confirms Stéphane Raison in the gallery. So how can we change logistics in cities, if not thanks to the river when we have one. ” While the merger was formalized, the ZFE Grand Paris at the same time banned heavy diesel vehicles from before 2009. Something to think about the players in the sector who often favor the A1 motorway connecting the ports of Rotterdam and, above all, to Antwerp to the capital.
On Tuesday, Haropa also presented the Green Dock project in the port of Gennevilliers, 5 kilometers from Paris, a multimodal logistics platform of 150 million euros which could create nearly 1,000 jobs. Autonomous in terms of energy, photovoltaic plant composed of 11,000 m² of solar panels, the largest natural gas station in town and bioNGV in France, anaerobic digestion plant in project … Gennevilliers is put forward as an example of a development model that wants to be green. “We want the port of the Seine to become the cleanest and most competitive gateway to continental Europe”, promised Edouard Philippe, mayor of Le Havre.
Intermodality issues remain for the various ports of Haropa, in particular rail freight, abandoned by public policies when it would be the ideal complement to the river, or that of the last mile, with cleaner vehicles than today. hui. The ball is more in the court of the State and the communities. The road will be tough: 85% of Haropa’s containers arrive or leave today by truck against 10% by the Seine and 5% by rail. While the road often represents less than half in northern ports.
What place in the Paris region?
“The challenge for Haropa is first and foremost that of serving the Paris region, the leading European consumption area, but which we are not able to source more globally”, Stéphane Raison promised. Getting products to some 12 million Ile-de-France residents is a major difficulty. The location of the warehouses, overwhelmingly in the north, east and south of the region, is also a problem. Coming from Le Havre and Rouen, the boats logically arrive from the west. However, barely a third of warehouse surfaces in Ile-de-France are located in the three departments of the west (Val-d’Oise, Yvelines, Hauts-de-Seine). To reach more endowed areas, the river shuttles must navigate the loops of the Seine or enter the canals to the north of the agglomeration. But the chairman of the Haropa board remains optimistic: “Since the start of the year, 400,000 m² of warehouses have been contracted or are under discussion along the Seine axis, including that recently from Ikea to Limay (Yvelines).”