The port of Marseilles Fos has been granted EUR 7.5 million from the French government to kick-start essential work on the sea wall and the internal rail network during 2009.

The finance package follows the government's re-launch the economy plan - announced in December in response to the world financial crisis which includes infrastructure projects among targets for special aid.

Details of various awards in the Marseilles region were revealed by Patrick Devedjian, minister in charge of the plan, during a visit to the city.

The port is putting EUR 4.5m of the funding towards the EUR 20m renovation of the sea wall protecting the Marseilles harbour area. With construction dating from 1844 to 1970, the wall is now 7km long and 35m high. Despite regular maintenance, several sections of the boulder and masonry block structure need replacement due to constant exposure to the elements.

Work will take place in three phases. The government aid will finance urgent measures costing EUR 2m as well as the first main phase, to be completed between July and November at a cost of EUR 2.5m. The second main phase will be carried out between 2010 and 2013 for an estimated EUR 15.5m.

Meanwhile the rest of the special finance will go towards upgrading and expanding rail capacity at Fos in readiness for the Fos 2XL, 3XL and 4XL container terminal developments. Between September and December this year, two new lines will be constructed and a disused link will be re-opened, with each scheme costing EUR 1.5m.

The work is part of a longer-term modernisation plan adopted since operational responsibility for the 110km rail network within Marseilles and Fos was transferred to the port last year.

Restructuring of the port's rail access falls within the 2007-2013 regional development plan. Connections throughout France, Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands notably serving the container market - add to the port's competitiveness and offer an eco-friendly alternative to road transport.

A port of Marseilles Fos delegation led by executive chairman Jean-Claude Terrier has completed a six-day trade mission to Turkey the third since 2004 to one of the port's major trading partners.

The nation ranks third for container traffic and fifth for ro-ro traffic at the port. Volumes last year included some 0.8 million tonnes of general cargo and more than 100,000 new vehicles exported from Turkey.

Visiting Istanbul and top Turkish container port Izmir, the delegation held meetings with shipowners, members of the Utikad forwarders association and with the French economic mission. The programme also included a dinner for shippers, notably motor manufacturers.

The multi-modal rail, waterways and road links at Marseilles Fos were promoted as a key attraction for Turkish business, particularly as the network serves Germany as well as the Rhone-Saone corridor, the second largest economic zone in France.

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