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Port pro of the month: Christine Cabau Woehrel (FR)

Monday, 15 October 2018 | 00:00

For this edition of our Port Pro of the Month we are interviewing Christine Cabau Woehrel, Chief Executive Officer of the Port of Marseille-Fos. In what follows, you will not only learn about some topical developments and issues in the Port of Marseille, but also about what it means for Ms. Cabau Woehrel to pursue a career in the port sector.

Since 2014, you have been the President of the Executive Committee of the Port of Marseille-Fos. Can you briefly present the Port of Marseille-Fos? What are its main characteristics and challenges?

In 2017, the global traffic of Marseille-Fos amounted to 81 million metric tons, making the port the 1st one in France and the 2nd largest port in the Mediterranean by total cargo tonnage. The Port of Marseille-Fos, which comprises a total area of 10 000 hectares, is a global port with infrastructure able to process all types of traffic (crude oil, liquid bulk, containers, general cargo, breakbulk, dry bulk, roro as well as Passengers). Moreover, the port is a major base for ship repair (yachting and industrial) with 10 docks (for ships up to more than 400 meters long) and provides vast logistic and industrial park areas.

For a long time, The Port of Marseille-Fos has been dedicated to the liquid bulk flows, and is now pursuing a voluntary strategy of diversification and developing a strong growth for general cargo and more specifically in the container sector (+45% since 2011).

Its strategic position, ideal for north/south and east/west intercontinental trade, as well as intramed shortsea shipping, together with its multimodal facilities make it the natural Southern gateway of global Europe. Our facilities aim to provide a sustainable and efficient alternative to the Northern range to serve the European market. Over the past recent years, the strategy of diversification has proved to be efficient and well oriented and the steady growth in container business, two times bigger than the average European market growth over the same period proves this point. We are gaining back market share and increasing the visibility of Marseille-Fos on the international shipping scene.

The MedPorts Association was created in July 2018. The Port of Marseille-Fos was one of the driving forces behind the creation of this association. Can you briefly tell us more about MedPorts? What were the motives for the Port of Marseille-Fos to be a founding member of the association? What are the main expectations and targets of the association?

The Port of Marseille Fos, the largest port in France and the second largest Mediterranean seaport, is in essence a Euro-Mediterranean port. With the MEDPorts Association, we aim to consolidate the multisecular connecting links in “Mare nostrum” amongst the growing economies in Europe, Black Sea, Turkey, Middle-East and Northern Africa.

The MEDPorts Association was created on June 27th and was officially launched with the participation of 20 port authorities and national port associations: Algeciras, Arzew, Barcelona, Bastia, Bejaia, Beirut, Civitavecchia, Damietta, Luka Koper, Malta Freeport, Marseille-Fos, Tunisian national ports Authority, Puertos del Estado, Skikda, Tanger Med, Serport (gathering the Algerian ports), Tarragona, Toulon, Valencia and Venice. They are the founding members of the association.

The objectives of the Association are as follows:

-To improve the efficiency, competitiveness and world visibility of the Med ports by joint communication or action every time it will be deemed appropriate, as well as the exchange of best practices in training and port expertise;
-To facilitate the creation of new maritime sustainable trade links between the med ports and their respective hinterland;
-To promote and support the Med ports strategies and synergies towards international organisations and institutions whenever will be deemed necessary by the port members;
-To study problems relating to port activities and/or port and maritime sector in the context of international treaties or regulations with a focus on Mediterranean impacts;
-To achieve a well-balanced Association, functioning with ports of different sizes and from different regions around the Mediterranean area.

The MEDPorts Association is organised around an Executive Committee and 6 Technical Committees which will address issues in the field of Sustainability, Training and Maritime expertise, Safety and Security, Statistics and Market Analysis, Relations with International Institutions and Smart Port Strategy.

China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) seeks to expand maritime routes and land infrastructure networks connecting China with Asia, Africa and Europe, boosting trade and economic growth. What is the approach of the Port of Marseille-Fos towards this initiative? How can this initiative be of benefit for the port?

Beyond the symbolic mapping of the Silk road crossing Suez to reach Mediterranean major ports, the BRI initiative is structured around a policy of international projects. Since 2016, the port of Marseille-Fos, has shown how it can participate to the process around 4 main orientations: logistics, industrial projects, digital, and tourism (cruise). In this respect, there are some success stories to report, including the signature of a strategic cooperation agreement with SIPG Port of Shanghai in 2018 to exchange expertise around sustainability, innovation and cruise development, the ‘green field‘ project of the Chinese champion of silica production, Quechen, to locate their European plant in the Fos port area, the development of shipping activities in Fos by Cosco shipping within the Ocean Alliance, the connection of data transfer from Asia and China to Europe through the unique concentration of submarine digital cables around the port of Marseille.

The Port of Marseille-Fos is part of both the Mediterranean and the North Sea-Mediterranean Corridor of the Trans-European Transport Network (TEN-T). How has being part of the TEN-T network been of benefit to the port?

This positioning at a major European line-crossing and the recognition of this situation by the TEN-T network sends a very strong message to our partners and customers with respect to intermodal facilities and cargo fluidity.

Yet, we have to continue building within the TEN-T programme more concrete long distance links, around dedicated platforms; which will help the Southern gateway to take shape and provide an efficient alternative for shippers to choose the route which will best fit them.

This is why we will continue to submit development projects. For the 2018 call, the Port of Marseille-Fos will submit a project on rail infrastructure equipment dedicated to facilitate the rail transfer for trucks directly from the port terminals to long distance points in Europe. This aims to facilitate the competitivity of transporting trailers on trains directly to and from the ship’s hull. We have great projects to participate actively in the consolidation of massified transportation by rail or barge as close as possible to the ships in our port, and we have great expectation that the TEN-T authorities will support us on this path.

The Port of Marseille-Fos is an important oil port. The oil industry in Europe seems to have a challenging future, as climate change policies, projected future scarcity of oil, recurring geopolitical problems, and other developments are obliging governments in the EU to seek for alternative energy sources. What is your vision for the port in this respect? Are you developing strategies to cope with the possible loss of oil traffic?

We have anticipated this trend some time ago already and we have initiated a strategy of diversification, which is proving to be successful. Yet, our historic energy expertise should be preserved and extended with new developments in LNG (LNG bunkering is on the top of our agenda, having two LNG terminals active on our site), as well as in renewable energy sources. In this field, our portfolio is quite extensive: wind turbines inland and off-shore (with an innovating project of offshore floating wind turbines project), photovoltaic development on our vast land resources, geothermic circle, smart grid, hydrogene and power to gas test projects, etc. A concrete example of this pioneering strategy: Marseille-Fos is the first port in the Mediterranean to have implemented a solution of on-shore electric supply for ferries and this has been in operation for now almost two years.

The Port of Marseille-Fos is actively supporting the development of circular economy industries in the port. Why is the port promoting this concept? What are the opportunities of the circular economy for the Port of Marseille-Fos?

The circular economy principle for industrial platforms will drive our future planning. This reinforces the attractivity of industrial projects and creates the right tools for energy, steel or chemical clusters.

Together with our industrial partners already present on the port territory, we have developed our strategy in this respect. The PIICTO project, for Platform for Industry and Innovation at Caban Tonkin, is one of the corporate pillars of our environmental, industrial and corporate social responsibility (CSR) policy in our port. The goal is to enhance the port economic competitiveness with a focus on industrial and environmental transformation.

As such, we have dedicated a 1 200 hectares area, which already gathers 17 plants and companies, to industry development around the circular economy principle. This multimodal platform is also an energy hub, including: electricity (225 kV), natural gas and frigories (2 LNG Terminal), coal, biomass, wind power, hydrogen projects etc. For instance, one of the flagship projects is a steam network, which will link steam producers to steam consumers on the platform. Beyond the circular economy projects, the port develops a proactive Smart port approach, with the aim of: 1) improving all aspects of the economic and environmental performance of the maritime and logistics ecosystem, 2) creating new sources of value and employment, 3) strengthening balanced interactivity between the port and the metropolitan territory, 4) promoting the port strategy and contributing to the attractiveness of the direct as well as indirect economic area around it. This approach is more global than the circular economy approach and overpasses it.

Marseille is an attractive destination for cruise tourism. Currently, debates on the sustainability of cruise tourism are very topical in a number of port-cities. Is sustainable tourism on your agenda? How do you think ports and cities can contribute to ensuring that cruise tourism remains a sustainable form of tourism?

Over the last decade, Marseille has become an increasingly attractive and efficient destination for cruise tourism, with 1.8 million passengers expected in 2018 (ranked #4 in the Mediterranean). When you know that ten years ago the cruise traffic was below half a million passengers, you can see the quick evolution.

Together with cruise shipowners, we have to work actively and quickly to provide to the neighbouring population the necessary concertation and visibility on how we intend to increase the sustainability of the model. We have initiated this dialogue with a considerable involvement, yet we have to clearly demonstrate what is on the agenda to limit the impact of emissions, no matter how big or small they may be, and explain what is the agenda, how we intend to accelerate it and use all possible technologies (scrubbers, LNG propulsion, cold ironing) to improve sustainability. This implies consolidating measurements (air quality, water quality), sharing roadmaps and providing concrete steps.

In 2017, we started a cold ironing process for ferries and it is ongoing. In 2019, the first LNG engine cruise ships will call at Marseille-Fos and other deliveries will follow, we have initiated a process of certification of scrubbers etc.

What are the main focal points of your port’s environmental policy?

We wish to put a strong acceleration on the massification of multimodal freight transport flows: rail, barge and trailer-train development is on the top of our agenda and we have dedicated over the past 5 years an envelope of more than 50 million euros in this field and we will continue to provide efforts in this respect.

We also encourage shipowners to be ahead of regulations and will support them financially to this end, with port cost incentive as well as with shared investments (as we have done with the investments in cold ironing facilities in our terminals).

We also wish to promote a better knowledge with respect to the choice of commercial routes of shippers. We are developing a specific tool for ecocalculation which will compare the respective carbon impact on different door-to-door shipping routes. In a large number of European inland destinations or origins, the choice of a shipping route via a Southern gateway is showing a lower carbon footprint than other routes.

You are nominated by WISTA France (Women’s International Shipping & Trade Association) to become WISTA’s personality of the year 2018. Can you briefly explain what WISTA is? Furthermore, only a handful of women occupy top positions in European ports these days. What are the main reasons for this underrepresentation of women in top positions in ports? What could be done to increase the number of women in top positions?

WISTA is a very active organisation which aims at promoting the implication and the work of women in shipping. I respect very much the work and the achievements of WISTA, yet one can only hope someday soon we will not need such organisations anymore as this will mean that we are done with the underrepresentation of women in shipping.

Obviously, I am immensely honored to be among the nominees this year and I will do my utmost to help the younger generations to feel comfortable and attracted by a career in international shipping. This starts by promoting shipping as whole in general and in academic education. I do not know about other European countries, but in France, the world of shipping and logistics is not very well known by the younger generations and therefore these careers do not attract young people as it should do.

This needs to be changed, as shipping and logistics provide great employment opportunities and are an immense opening to the world economy. Young women, as well as young men, by the way, need to be encouraged to choose this path and possibly to be tutored in their younger years to develop a quick expertise. We need experts, and women will be great at it.

You are now President of the Executive Committee of the Port of Marseille-Fos. How did you get into maritime transport? How did your career path led to this position?

I started my shipping career more than 30 years ago in what used to be a small shipping company in Marseille known under the name of CMA. I came here by chance and fell immediately in love with ships and shipping. I do not regret one second choosing this career even if as a young woman in the early years, I sometimes had to prove my point with a lot of energy and accuracy! In those days, as a young woman, you had to be right more often than men… this has fortunately started to change.

After 24 years in CMA, then CMA CGM, I decided to give a new orientation to my career. Port business provides immense opportunities to develop fantastic new projects, meet with involved and charismatic professionals, and participate in useful long-term development. Marseille is my home town so I am emotionally linked to the Port of Marseille-Fos. Somehow when it comes from the heart, it gives you a greater strength and implication and it feels good.
Source: ESPO

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