Group helps promote Mediterranean alternative for local lines
WONG JOON SAN
The ports of Barcelona, Genoa and Marseilles are working through European economic interest group Intermed to promote themselves as the gateway to North Africa, the Middle East and southern Europe.
Representatives of the three northwestern Mediterranean ports met and gave information to several Hong Kong shippers and lines recently.
'The three ports are trying to promote themselves as the Mediterranean gateway to southern Europe,' said Intermed spokesman Juan Dedeu, who also is Far East representative of the Port of Barcelona.
The three ports between them handled 161.5 million tonnes of cargo in 1997, including 40.4 million tonnes of general cargo and 2.8 million teu (20 ft equivalent units).
Although the ports were jointly marketing the Mediterranean region, they were also competing with each other for Asian business, he said.
Mr Dedeu said the ports were eyeing Asian cargo currently shipped to Rotterdam and trucked to southern Europe through congested roads by offering shippers a shorter transit time and cheaper costs.
Intermed was given lobby group status by the European Union during its first promotion in London in June.
Last week, Intermed and Port of Marseilles chairman Claude Cardella, Joaquim Tosas i Mir, Port of Barcelona chairman, and Guiliano Gallanti, Port of Genoa chairman, met shippers, shipping lines and forwarders in Hong Kong to highlight the Mediterranean's potential.
Mr Tosas said besides promoting the Mediterranean, Intermed had been set up to resolve a number of specific problems, which were both geographic and historical.
The lobby group wanted to solve issues such as how to use railway links to provide connections with the hinterland and to find solutions to crossing natural barriers, such as the Pyrenees and the Alps, he said.
It would also assist in port development through application of funds designed to benefit the southern European ports, he added.
Unlike northern European ports, which are located in river estuaries affording natural protection, the ports in the south have to bear the costly construction of breakwaters.
Mr Tosas said that by using Mediterranean ports, shipping lines would help to reduce the environmental impact in northern European caused by traffic congestions and the high volume of traffic.
'Given the current developments in the transport and logistics industry, the major ports are clearly the lynchpins of the networks,' he said.
Within this framework, the strengthening of the leading Mednoc ports would, in practice, contribute to redressing the balance in the current trans-European networks, which tended to gravitate towards north and northeastern Europe, Mr Tosas added.
This would in turn boost the trade with North Africa and southeastern Europe and increase the current use of the trans-European networks of the south, Mr Tosas said.
Intermed would also lobby the relevant EU institutions to improve the status of ports in the European Community, he said, adding that Intermed aimed to create a competitive environment for clients and at the same time strive to enhance quality of services for them.