Zone Profile: Free Zone of Le Verdon / Port de Bordeaux
Le Verdon Free Zone is located within the Port de Bordeaux complex on the Côte d'Argent in southwestern France, on the Bay of Biscay which is bordered by both France and Spain. This small coastal town near the city of Bordeaux is one of the free ports that exist in the countries of the European Union.
The Port de Bordeaux has 7 terminals along the Gironde estuary on the west coast of France. The Verdon Terminal is a deep-water port at the entrance to the estuary
Bordeaux is a city whose history is intimately linked to its port. The origins of the port go as far back as 300 BC, when a Gallic tribe, the Bituriges Vivisci, settled in the area. The maritime traffic that Bordeaux handled positioned it on the Mediterranean-Atlantic axis. Trading ships carrying metals, wines, oils, copper and pottery enjoyed the bounties of the port.
History of the Zone/ Background
The port of Bordeaux has existed for centuries. However, the most important construction and modernization work occurred in the 20th century. During the First World War, the port served as a military base. Later, between 1939 and 1945, under German occupation, a submarine base was built in the port
After the successive world wars that devastated much of Europe, reconstruction of the port began. Several terminals were opened along the estuary. In 1976, a container terminal was opened at Le Verdon. In the following years, more terminals were opened, leading to the Port de Bordeaux having a total of 7 specialized terminals along the estuary.
Today, the Port de Bordeaux plays a key role in the foreign trade of France and Europe. It is a key point in maritime trade for a dozen strategic products. It is estimated that between 8 and 9 million tons of goods pass through the port annually
The 7 terminals that make up the Port de Bordeaux are:
- Le Verdon: Containers, Cruise Reception.
- Pauillac: Hydrocarbons, A380 logistics center.
- Blaye: Cereals, Chemicals.
- Ambès: Petrochemicals, Hydrocarbons.
- Grattequina: Heavy packages, Aggregates.
- Bassens: cereals, containers, wood, oils, aggregates, coal, recycling traffic...
- Bordeaux - Port de la Lune: reception of cruise ships, terminal dedicated to passenger traffic.
The Le Verdon terminal is located at the entrance of the Gironde estuary, providing a quick exit to the Atlantic Ocean. The Port de Bordeaux's other specialized terminals are located along 100 km of navigable river
The Le Verdon terminal was primarily intended to support the logistical activities of vessels oriented towards the transport of hydrocarbons. To this end, it has an extensive container terminal, as well as cranes capable of moving containers throughout the facility
The terminal facilities connect with two main roads. To the north, it connects by land to Le Verdon-sur-Mer. To the southwest, it connects to Bordeaux 100 kilometers away via the Navette Le Verdon-Bruges-Bordeaux.
The Free Zone has a total area of 59 hectares, plus 3900 square meters of hangars. Highlights include the Captaincy building, several port stations and workshops, a ramp, trailer parks, tax authorities' offices and a road scale at its entrance
The Le Verdon terminal was built on the initiative of public authorities and the port in the 1970s. The aim was to develop support activities for petrochemical and cargo ships. However, these projects were never as large as estimated, so traffic remained modest.
In large part, the initial struggle of the Le Verdon terminal is due to its remote position, more than 100 kilometers from the city of Bordeaux. In addition, there are no roads or rail links suitable for freight transport.
To mitigate this situation, the government authorized the creation of a customs free zone allowing established companies to defer the payment of customs duties. The first occupant of this free zone was Cameleon Agency, a U.S. company dedicated to the processing of import and export goods.
The Port de Bordeaux handles an annual traffic of approximately 6 tons of goods, with hydrocarbon imports and grain exports being the most important. Nearly 900 ships pass through the port's 7 terminals each year.
At present, the Port de Bordeaux has 340 employees, generating more than 15,000 direct and indirect jobs through its activities. These activities generate an ordinary income of approximately 46 million euros.
The Port de Bordeaux has the status of "Grand Port Maritime", which means that it is a public institution entrusted by the State with the management of a seaport. This institution was created in 2008, seeking to involve the private sector more deeply in the country's port activities, repealing the figure of the "port autonome".
The legislation governing the activities of the Port de Bordeaux at its Le Verdon terminal are:
- Decree No. 65-939 of 8 November 1965 creating an autonomous port at the Port de Bordeaux under Law No. 65-491 of 29 June 1965
- Decree No. 2008-1034 of 9 October 2008 establishing the large seaport of Bordeaux
- Seaport Code : Preliminary title: Port Organization and Major Seaports. ... (Articles L100-1 to L106-3)
In 1998, the Le Verdon terminal was granted free zone status. This implies that its activities are in a customs and tax free zone. Companies setting up there enjoy a total exemption from business tax for five years, as well as a progressive exemption from corporate tax. In addition, goods entering from outside the European Union are exempt from duties while in port before being re-exported.
The Le Verdon terminal has not been especially successful. Because of its position at the outlet of the estuary, it has been difficult to attract industrial activity to the port area. The container terminal only recently became relevant.
At present, it seems that the fate of the Verdon terminal is uncertain. Due to the modernization of the Bassens terminal, with an investment of 22 million euros, the centralization of activities seems imminent. This would work against the Verdon terminal because of its distance from the other terminals and the city of Bordeaux itself.
The Port de Bordeaux management has stated that it will continue to operate under a reduced regime. There are no large-scale projects that would allow the Le Verdon terminal to resume the projection it had at its launch. It will probably remain a terminal of opportunity that will accommodate a few ships occasionally
The Le Verdon Free Zone faces the major challenge of remaining relevant when it is overshadowed by the other terminals of the Port de Bordeaux. Its strategic position at the entrance to the estuary offers it an opportunity that, so far, seems to have not materialized. The container crisis is hampering its start-up, with this being the main activity for which its facilities were built. However, it is becoming increasingly important, attracting investors who are strengthening the promotion of its facilities in line with the Port de Bordeaux's strategic objectives for this terminal.
You can find more about the Port de Bordeaux on the Open Zone Map, here: https://www.openzonemap.com/SEZ/France/Port_de_Bordeaux
- Free zones which are in operation in the customs territory of the Union, as communicated by the Member States to the Commission; European Comission. https://ec.europa.eu/taxation_customs/system/files/2020-04/list_freezones.pdf
- 7 specialised terminals; Port de Bordeaux
- Le port de Bordeaux Historique; Port de Bordeaux.
- Frise chronologique; Bassins des Lumières.
- Rail2Bordeaux - Rail connections to the port of Bordeaux, maritime node of the Atlantic Corridor; European Comission.
- Key Figures; Port de Bordeaux.
- Trade Sectors; Port de Bordeaux.
- Terminal du Verdon; Port de Bordeaux.
- Le port de Bordeaux veut sauver le Verdon; Les Echos.
- Chiffres Cles; Port de Bordeaux.
- Bordeaux-le Verdon va obtenir une zone franche douanière et fiscale. Les Echos. https://www.lesechos.fr/1998/09/bordeaux-le-verdon-va-obtenir-une-zone-franche-douaniere-et-fiscale-799487#:~:text=Une%20zone%20franche%20douani%C3%A8re%20et%20fiscale%20devrait%20%C3%AAtre%20install%C3%A9e%20sur,ouest%20de%20la%20m%C3%A9tropole%20girondine.&text=Le%20terminal%20portuaire%20girondin%20du,zone%20franche%2C%20douani%C3%A8re%20et%20fiscale.
- Port de Bordeaux: Le Verdon menacé; Les Echos.
- Port de Bordeaux: le terminal à conteneurs de Bassens passe à l’ère moderne; Sud Ouest. https://www.sudouest.fr/environnement/mer/port-de-bordeaux-le-terminal-a-conteneurs-de-bassens-passe-a-l-ere-moderne-1740984.php
- Grand port maritime: les terminaux médocains du Verdon et de Pauillac sans ligne d’horizon; Sud Ouest. https://www.sudouest.fr/dordogne/verdon/grand-port-maritime-les-terminaux-du-verdon-et-pauillac-sans-ligne-d-horizon-2082061.php