Genoa based ferry operator Grandi Navi Veloci yesterday signed a contract to take over the Quai Orsetti in the port of Sète as a base for a new range of services between France and the Maghreb, writes John McLaughlin .
GNV managing director Ariodante Valeri said the company was studying connections to Morocco and Algeria in particular, with a view to launching in October.
The deal with Sète marks the end of a long-running search by GNV for a French Mediterranean home for its burgeoning North African business, which it views as a key driver of future growth.
GNV had appeared destined to settle in Marseilles until soaring bunker prices put talks on hold last year. As fuel prices fell and its interest in the project resurfaced, however, Sète emerged as the favourite to be GNV’s French hub.
Mr Valeri cited its good motorway connections, its location between Marseilles and Barcelona, and the Quai Orsetti’s two berths, which can handle the 200 m long vessels it will deploy on the new routes.
He added that GNV’s arrival in Sète would also provide the region with the competition it seeks on the North African routes, which are currently served out of Sète by Comanav Comarit.
The Italian operator has launched a new company, GNV France, with two French partners specialising in cargo and passenger traffic, to handle the operation.
Mr Valeri envisaged further investment in Sète, perhaps via a stake in a future operating company in the port.
He said GNV France would focus on passenger traffic more than cargo as it seeks to build the business, and that vessels such as the 39,800 dwt Excelsior or the 35,222 dwt Fantastic , pictured, would be candidates to operate on the new routes.