Summary of our market study

In 2020, the production value of the French maritime economy amounted to 91.6 billion euros, with the transport and logistics segments accounting for a third of this value.

The global shipping market has experienced significant growth, driven by globalization and the demand for goods transport, with seaborne trade accounting for 90% of world trade by volume and 80% by value.

The top 10 shipping lines account for 84.6% of the world's container fleet capacity, indicating a highly concentrated market.

The French shipbuilding sector is expanding, with a growing number of establishments and employees.

The maritime sector contributes almost 3% of global greenhouse gas emissions, and efforts to combat this phenomenon are slow

The race for gigantic ships continues.

Trends in the French shipping market

A substantial proportion of world trade, in terms of both volume and value, takes place on the high seas. France occupies a unique position thanks to its vast Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs) and a group of major metropolitan ports such as Marseille, Le Havre and Dunkirk. Historically, these ports have concentrated between 80 and 90% of national traffic. Le Havre accounts for almost half of the country's container traffic.

The various market segments - bulk carriers, container ships and oil tankers - are directly impacted by major fluctuations in the world market.

70% to 75% of French imports are linked to maritime transport

The cruise industry has enjoyed strong growth over the past ten years. The number of cruise passengers has doubled, from around two million to over four million. Nevertheless, the total number of maritime passengers has fallen by around 5-6%.

The shipping industry is dominated by a handful of heavyweights who steer the flow of goods and passengers across the world's oceans.

  • Maersk Line
  • Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC)
  • Hapag-Lloyd
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Summary and extracts

1 Market overview

1.1 Definition and geography

Marine transportation refers to the movement of goods and people by sea . It should be noted that sometimes the maritime carrier also manages the pre-carriage (at the shipper's premises) or post-carriage (at the port) in the context of a charter party within the goods flow management process: maritime logistics .

The main types of vessels are tankers These are used to transport oil, gas or chemicals, bulk carriers for the bulk transport of raw materials, and container ships. In addition to the number of ships, their importance is often determined by their tonnage, i.e. the weight of cargo they can carry.

The most important routes for world maritime trade are defined by a few strategic crossing points These include:

  • The Strait of Malacca
  • The Strait of Hormuz
  • The Bosphorus and the Dardanelles
  • The Suez Canal
  • The Panama Canal

Maritime transport is the the world's dominant commercial transport mode . Indeed, maritime trade represents 90% of world trade in volume and 80% in value. It represented over 11 billion tonnes of freight traded in 2019 compared to some 550 million tonnes in 1950. In comparison, international air freight is estimated at only 2 million tonnes of cargo.

Passenger transport, after having suffered from competition from air transport, remains predominant in two categories of journeys: cruises and short-distance crossings.


The world's main shipping routes


Source Arte

On a national level, the production value of the French maritime economy will amount to 91.6 billion euros in 2020. Within this maritime economy, the transport and logistics segment accounts for one third. The maritime transport segment was moreover driven upwards by all cruise passengers before the arrival of the Covid-19 pandemic, with a CAGR of 7.9% between 2009 and 2019.

The main container ports are located in Asia, mainly in China . The world's leading commercial port is Shanghai, ahead of Singapore and Ningbo-Zhoushan. Asia thus counts 17 of the world's 20 largest ports . The leading European port is Rotterdam (10th in the world). Le Havre, the leading French port, is 56th in the world.

List of charts presented in this market study

  • World seaborne trade volume
  • Distribution of international maritime trade by region
  • Ranking of the largest container ports according to throughput
  • Total volume of goods entering and leaving the major seaports (GPM) and Calais
  • Breakdown of industry segments by value share in the maritime economy
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Latest news

Compagnie du Ponant awarded Relais & Châteaux label - 28/11/2023
  • Le Ponant, Compagnie du Ponant's historic three-master, joins Relais & Châteaux.
  • Relais & Châteaux has 580 establishments.
  • They claim to be the world's leading gastronomic establishment, with 350 Michelin stars. Relais & Châteaux receives an average of 500 applications a year, ten of which were selected this year.
  • Le Ponant has been transformed thanks to an investment of several tens of millions of euros.
  • Le Ponant is an 88 m long ship with 16 cabins for double the number of passengers and as many crew members.
  • The average cost of a night on Le Ponant is 1,500 euros.
  • The Marseille-based company owns 13 cruise ships, which embarked 60,000 guests in 2019.
  • Ships have a maximum of 200 cabins
  • The current average age of passengers is 65.
Ponant's zero-carbon cruise ship - 25/11/2023
  • Ponant's fourteenth vessel will be 181 meters long, with around 100 cabins.
  • The aim is to achieve zero greenhouse gas emissions when sailing, maneuvering, in port and at anchor.
  • The vessel will combine sails with 1,000 m² of photovoltaic panels.
  • Ponant is collaborating with Marseille-based start-up Syroco for the ship's routing.
Méridionale places order for two clean ships - 14/11/2023
  • Acquisition of La Méridionale by CMA CGM
  • Order for two new hybrid ships
  • These ships can carry freight, truckloads of cargo and a thousand passengers in 264 cabins.
  • The vessels are expected to cost around 400 million euros.
  • The company currently serves the ports of Ajaccio and Porto-Vecchio in Corsica, and the port of Tangiers in Morocco, with 500 sailors out of 600 employees.
  • New routes are planned to serve Maghreb countries and other Mediterranean destinations.
  • Sales of over €70 million by 2022.
Saint-Nazaire port bets heavily on floating wind turbines - 20/07/2023
  • The port of Nantes Saint-Nazaire is home to France's first floating wind farm, Floatgen.
  • The Grand Port Maritime plans to set up a specialized floating wind farm industrial base in Saint-Nazaire, under the name Eole.
  • The giant Eole crane will be capable of handling turbines weighing 1,000 tonnes or more.
  • The development of the Eole industrial base would represent an investment of around 150 million euros.
  • The cost of the crane would be at least 80 million euros.
  • The port is also home to battery storage and solar photovoltaic projects, with a 14-hectare park being developed by Amarenco and a 9-hectare park by Engie.
  • Fossil fuels currently account for 70% of the port's traffic.
Cruises: Ponant orders its first carbon-neutral ship - 05/07/2023
  • Ponant, the luxury cruise operator, has been owned since 2015 by Artemis (holding company of the Pinault family).
  • Ponant plans to build its fourteenth ship, a project estimated at several hundred million euros.
  • Expected in 2030, the ship will be 180 meters long.
  • In 2023, Ponant returned to booking levels above those of 2019 and sales significantly above pre-pandemic levels (380 million euros in 2019).
  • The luxury cruise sector grew by 25% in 2022 compared with pre-pandemic levels.
  • Ponant has reduced the average speed of its ships by 40% in ten years to meet high expectations for green cruises and cut energy consumption.
  • A quarter of Ponant's customers opt for packages that include pre- and post-cruise travel.
TiL-MSC conforte son investissement au Havre - 24/05/2023

Companies quoted in this study

This study contains a complete overview of the companies in the market, with the latest figures and news for each company. :

MSC Mediterranean Shipping Company
Louis-Dreyfus Armateurs
Bourbon Maritime
DFDS Seaways
Brittany Ferries
Corsica ferries
APM Maersk
Naviland Cargo

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