The world economic crisis hit cargo activity at the port of Marseilles Fos in January, with total throughput of 6.54 million tonnes marking a 24% drop on the corresponding month last year.

While passenger numbers rose on the back of extended cruise business, all main cargo sectors were affected by the downturn.

General cargo fell 28% to 0.99MT. This included container traffic of 0.56MT, also down 28%, amounting to 59,118 teu (-25%). Throughput at Fos, handling Asia and US trades, dropped 23% to 44,085 teu. Meanwhile the Marseilles harbour area saw a slump in previously resistant Mediterranean trades, with box volumes falling 31% to 15,033 teu, ro-ro down 10% to 0.3MT and conventional traffic 53% worse on 0.12MT.

Dry bulks plunged 47% to 0.67MT due to a 77% fall in imports of raw materials for the steel industry. Liquid bulks slipped 8% to 0.22MT, although bio-fuels continued to flourish with an increase of 150%.

Oil volumes fell 19% to 4.68MT after demand for crude at French refineries dropped by 37% in the wake of industrial action the previous month. This overshadowed improvements in refined products, up 5% to 1.15MT, and LNG traffic, which rose 11% to 0.41MT.

Passenger throughput rose 4% to 62,000 as the growth of a year-round cruise season outweighed a slight dip in the ferry sector. With 5,000 passengers from four calls, the cruise total rose by an exceptional 166% on January 2008, when there was only one call.

The ferry total fell 1% to 57,000 after bad weather left Corsica numbers down 38% on 17,000. In contrast, carryings rose by 47% for Algeria (29,000) and 13% for Tunisia (11,000).