The Port of Marseilles has reported that passenger traffic rose 2 percent to a record 2.1 million for 2009, thanks to what it called its “booming cruise sector.” Cruise passenger numbers increased 18 percent 639,000. Passengers in transit, representing 75 percent of the cruise total, grew by 17 percent while home port numbers increased by 35 percent - reflecting the port’s decision last April to award the operating concession for the Marseille Provence Cruise Terminal to the MSC, Costa and Louis lines. Under the deal, the group has guaranteed 450 calls a year and an annual one million passengers by 2011.

In the ferry sector, Algeria traffic was down 9 percent to 333,600 passengers and Tunisia fell 5 percent to 244,600 – mainly due to low-cost airline competition, the port said, while Corsica emerged with a 2 percent deficit after crew strikes disrupted a healthy tourist season.

The port authority continued studies into a proposal first put forward in May 2008 to construct a new passenger and ro-pax terminal on the seaward side of the Marseilles harbor wall. The scheme, estimated to cost up to 1 billion euros, is designed to accommodate new generation ferries up to 210m long. The study will be developed during this year.

In related developments, ship repair company Union Naval Marseille, which held the concession for drydocks 8 and 9, went into liquidation in March 2009. A call for tenders resulted in Genoa-based San Giorgio del Porto being selected. Negotiations on the concession terms are under way with a view to operations starting in April 2010.