Bordeaux is a major port for the south west of France located on the estuary of the Gironde River. The port facilities extend over 50 miles of the estuary and the port authority has recently issued a five year plan to develop and expand the facilities to cope with modern demands and requirements.

There is an extensive fleet of river cruise vessels that operate along the rivers in the region

There is an extensive fleet of river cruise vessels that operate along the rivers in the region

In this strategic plan the port plans to spend around €110 million which will come from local, regional, state and European sources. One of the immediate developments is in the ship repair and ship building sector. This is being spread across three sites in the port with the Bassins a Flot wet docks already opened up and in use. This 135-metre-long quay is being used for work on the river cruise vessels and for larger yachts that are a major feature of the region whilst the next stage which is starting will be the re-commissioning of the dry dock No.1 in the Bacalan area. This is one of three dry docks in the port and within the next two years it is planned to have dry dock No.2 in working order again along with the adjacent Quay 208.

There is an extensive fleet of river cruise vessels that operate along the rivers in the region and much of the focus of the repair activities will be on these. For the dry dock one of the first vessels to book a place is the Airbus barge Breuil which is used to transport wing sections for the Airbus planes up the river to Toulon to the Airbus factory. These wings and other components for the planes arrive in Bordeaux by special ship from the UK, Germany and Spain and they are transhipped onto barge in the port for onward transport up the river. These movements account for over ½ million tonnes of cargo every year.

It is planned to develop the ship dismantling work at the port at the facility at Bassens where work will be carried out in line with the EC rules on ethical ship dismantling. In the early stages this ship dismantling work will focus on smaller vessels with a target of recycling over 4000 tonnes of steel each year but the prospect of growth in this sector is expected to be considerable. To meet these requirements there will be investment in the facilities including new machinery, quayside improvements and buildings at an initial cost of €10 million.

Cruise ship visits to Bordeaux are increasing and the authorities want to encourage this. Ships of up to 255 metres in length can moor alongside right in the centre of the city which can be a big attraction for this wine centre. They have to pass under the largest European lifting bridge that carries an autoroute across the river and there are plans to improve the facilities at the city centre quays and at Verdon to facilitate cruise ship visits. These improvements are likely to be in details rather than major works and could include improved gangway access and facilities. The plans are for at least 50 cruise ships to visit Bordeaux every year with the accent of these smaller ships that can moor in the centre. Here facilities will also be provided for the river cruise ships so that tourists can transfer direct to these vessels from the large ships for day cruises further up the river.

At Verdon the largest cruise ships can be accommodated but this location at the container terminal just inside the entrance to the estuary is remote from the tourist areas. a draft of up to 11 metres can be accommodated here and Verdon is planned to have a greater focus on container handing with virtually all containers being landed here rather than at several sites in the estuary. The rail connections at Verdon will be up-graded so that virtually all of the containers handled here will move onward by rail into the considerable hinterland that stretches to the Spanish border and across to the Mediterranean. The target set by the port authority is to double the amount of container traffic passing through the port over the next few years.

At the Grattequina Terminal work is nearly complete on a major upgrade of the facilities there. Bouygues Travaux Publiques are carrying out this work that will see the jetty capable of handling ships up to 120 metres in length and heavy lift cargoes requiring up to 8 tonnes per square metre landing. This €13.7 million project is primarily aimed at increasing the capability to handle Aggregates at the terminal but it is also planned that the site will serve to handle large wind turbine components in the future. It is anticipated that there will be considerable wind turbine construction in the waters of the Bay of Biscay in the future so this site is being prepared to handle large components for these projects.

The landing of aggregates at Grattequina is seen as an area of considerable growth and to match the quay developments it is planned to dredge the approach channel to allow deeper draft ships to use the terminal and to further develop the land facilities as a building materials hub. This channel deepening will apply to the other sites in the port that handle bulk cargoes. The aim here is to increase the bulk cargoes in the port up to 9.5 million tonnes per year.

With waterside development land readily available the port authority is confident that it can increase the shipping volumes using the port and the planned developments are aimed at producing incremental increases in traffic in existing areas as well as developing new business such as the ship breaking and wind farm work.

By Dag Pike