Seatrade Insider understands that several ‘major players’ have submitted bids, which will now be carefully evaluated before the winner is announced in early 2012.
Port operation manager Christophe Piloix explains that Marseille’s strategy for shiprepair is to ‘move from classical shiprepair to added-value, especially passenger ships.’ The port already has two repair and refit operations in place - one specialising in yachts and superyachts and the other capable of handling cruise ships up to 300mtr in length, operated by San Giorgio del Porto of Genoa, a sister company to luxury cruiseship builder T.Mariotti.
Drydock 10 will permit repair works on far larger scale, measuring as it does 495mtr x 100mtr with draught of up to 12.5mtr. The winning bidder also will be able to make use of an adjoining 350mtr berth.
The giant drydock was first built around 1970, envisaged for ultra large crude carriers – a vessel type that soon became redundant. Subsequent attempts to establish classical shiprepair businesses there have all foundered.
Piloix informs that the latest tender specified a shiprepair business specialising in ‘added-value’ ships – large cruise ships but also possibly LNG (liquefied natural gas) carriers. Given that two possible bidders are predominantly liner groups - Marseille-headquartered CMA CGM, owner of Compagnie du Ponant, and MSC, both of which already run container terminals at neighbouring Marseille Fos – repair of large containerships could also be a possibility.
The need for a large cruiseship facility in the Med was brought into sharp focus in late 2010, he adds, when Celebrity Century suffered a breakdown in the region. A mid-size vessel only 248mtr in length, Celebrity Century was able to be repaired speedily in Marseille, but the incident set the port and Royal Carribean thinking about contingency plans should a post-panamax size vessel find itself in similar need.
If the winning bid includes cruise line partners that would be no surprise. Currently, Costa Cruises, Louis Cruises and MSC Cruises have a joint agreement for the operation of the Marseille cruise terminal.