In a statement released this week, almost two months after the deadline for bids, the port cited the quality of the group’s proposal for the facility – a former oil tanker terminal that came into service in 1975 - as critical to its decision to open exclusive talks.
It added that the blue chip names involved, and their ‘real and recent experience in handling vessels of more than 250mtr in length’ also played a significant part in its selection of the group.
The two parties have been in discussion since the beginning of January and the port said it hoped to sign a definitive agreement in March. ‘The aim is to put Dock 10 into service at the end of 2014 in order to profit from the new ships in excess of 330mtr in length due to enter into service in the Mediterranean.’
Prominent cruise shipbuilder STX France has built a string of ships for MSC Cruises, in particular, at its St. Nazaire yard, but has been actively seeking to diversify in a bid to offset tumbling demand for new cruise ships. A Marseille investment fits with that strategy.
T Mariotti, which specialises in the construction of small luxury cruise ships and yachts, and repair yard San Giorgio del Porto, partners under the holding company Genova Industrie Navali (GIN), already have a stake in Marseille after taking over Docks 8 and 9 two years ago.
The move was a response to their inability to secure sufficient space in their Genoa home. Since then, their Chantier Naval de Marseille has gradually built up its repair business, with Costa Serena and Norwegian Jade among the prominent recent callers. Its Genoese parents, however, have long-standing ambitions to expand further.
As this week’s statement makes clear, the port of Marseille shares their belief in the yard’s future. This offer, it said, ‘will allow the port to create an exceptional ship repair hub perfectly adapted to the Mediterranean cruise market.’
This is also a market that in 2014-2015 will see the arrival of 330mtr-long cruise ships that only Dock 10 in the western Mediterranean will be capable of handling.
It added that ‘after the arrival of CNM 18 months ago, this new hub has not only increased the port’s industrial repair activity but consolidated its cruise activity, which is this group’s primary aim.’