VinciConstruction multi-national Vinci (UK readers will recognise their ownership of Norwest-Holst and Taylor Woodrow) has been awarded a 30-year contract by VNF to modernise and maintain installations on the Aisne and the Meuse.

At a value of 270 million euros, this is a significant element in VNF’s modernisation strategy, and includes satisfying environmental, ecological and hydropower performance criteria, building 29 new barrages and updating two others. Vinci will finance, design, construct and maintain – the design and construct period will take seven years.

Source – Agence Option Finance

La TourmenteCoincidental with some national encouragements for waterways transportation, a group located at Carcassonne has banded together to invest in the sole remaining commercial peniche (i.e excluding the dozen or so hotel barges) operating on the Canal des Deux Mers, from Sete to Toulouse and onward to Bordeaux.

Le Tourmente is operated by Jean-Marc Samuel, based at Roubia on the Canal du Midi. The peniche transports wine from local growers, local produce from local markets and also provides a venue for entertainments and exhibitions.

The investors make an initial contribution of 500 euros and then 20 euros each month for five years. At the end of that time they either accept their loss with the satisfaction of helping to encourage commercial life on the canal, or recoup their investment with interest.

TFF Waterways Transporters logoA new organisation has been created jointly by the Waterways Shipowners Committee (CAF) and the  Waterways Transport Organisation (CNBA). The purpose of the TFF (Transporteurs Fluviaux de France – French Waterway Carriers) is to promote the use of canals and rivers for the transport of goods.

It was launched at a meeting on 16th April where the Minister of Transport, Frédéric Cuvillier, was present and discussions on the day focused on some important topics –

  • Encouragement of passenger transport – a currently healthy sector but one that has constraints that could be ameliorated.
  • The threatened Seine-Nord Grand Gabarit canal project.

The Minister confirmed three initiatives concerning waterway transport –

  1. 10m€ in funds for schemes to assist the move from roads to waterways.
  2. A request to the E.U for 15m€ in funding to help modernisation of the commercial barge fleet.
  3. The establishment of professional qualifications for inland waterways transport.


Bordeaux Riverside Blueprint
[click to enlarge]

Alain Juppé, Mayor of Bordeaux (and a well-known senior French politician) has presented the ambitious city plan for the future development of riverside facilities, some of which are already under way.

Whilst twenty years ago the Bordeaux quays, docks and warehouses were derelict and fenced off, today the World Heritage ‘Port de la Lune‘ is spruced up and full of life. This rejuvenation will continue further with an expansion to the existing marina/port de plaisance (by the submarine pens that were filmed by Steven Speilberg for ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’ and by Wolfgang Petersen for ‘Das Boot’), a future fuel pontoon, expanded river and maritime cruise ship facilities, a lengthened city pontoon (by the Pont Pierre) plus restaurant, walking, sailing and cultural leisure developments. The cruise fleet CroisiEurope already operates one ship, the Princesse d’Aquitaine out of the port and will introduce another, the Cyrano de Bergerac, later in 2013. Another fleet also plans to develop Garonne/Gironde cruise tourism.

Port de la Lune – ‘Port of the Moon’ which refers to the crescent shape of the River Garonne as it passes through the city and which appears on the city’s historic coat of arms.


Canal de la SommeThe Somme Authority (Conseil General – responsible for this non-VNF waterway) has published navigation information for the coming season 1st April to 1st November.

Contact the canal department office (the PCE) to notify your passage by telephoning 06 74 83 60 69. You will be asked for details of your craft and also for your mobile phone number, so that you can be contacted. Ecluses and bridges, operated by canal staff, are operational between 09:00h to 12:30h and from 13:30h to 18:00h.

The sea lock at Saint-Valery is only available around high water times, notionally an hour either side of HW. Voice mail messages notifying an intent to pass that lock can be left on the ecluse number 03 22 60 80 23.

The bief (pound) between PK115 and PK117 is restricted in width due to weed proliferation.

MigennesRelevant people concerned with waterways and tourism throughout Burgundy met at Migennes to declare the 2013 season ‘open’ as of 16th March.

The situation for the waterways – the River Yonne, Canal de Nivernais, Canal du Centre, Canal de Bourgogne – looks good. Water reserves are at 90% level or better.

It is estimated that the waterways tourism brings in 45 million euros p.a in direct and indirect contributions to the Burgundian economy.

Fete PlaisancierOn Friday 31st May there will be some special events to celebrate ‘Plaisanciers’ – pleasure boaters.

  • On the Midi, at Portiragnes (just west of Agde) there’s a special discount offer on hiring a small electric day boat – 5 or 7 seats – to explore and enjoy.
  • Music, dancing, a buffet and a boat jumble at Aigues Mortes.
  • A ‘long table’ quay party at Bouzigues (Etang de Thau)- bring your own food and drink and have fun with your neighbours.
  • Barbecue, refreshments and entertainments at Pont-de-Vaux on the River Saone.

Chagny port de plaisance

Chagny council has recently approved plans to improve the port de plaisance (on the Canal du Centre) – and voted 320,000€ to get the project off the ground. They had been told that inland waterways tourism is currently worth 21m€ to the Saone-et-Loire region.

Over three phases, the port will see improvements to landscaping, the capitainerie and to mooring facilities. When complete, the quay will accommodate five or six smaller boats, three larger ones and two hotel barges, all with water and electricity points (bornes).

Plane trees felledSadly, the famous plane trees that form a shady avenue along the picturesque Canal du Midi are gradually being lost. In 2006 it was found that the species was suffering from a virulent parasitic fungus – the Chancre Coloré or Canker Stain – thought to have been inadvertently introduced in wooden ammunition boxes during WW2.

So far, 2,315 trees have been felled (1,600 during the 2012-2013 winter period) but it is thought that some 8,500 to 10,000 trees are contaminated, out of a total of 42,000 that border the canal. Trees located within 30m of an affected specimen must also be cut down.
Replanting is proceeding, using an American type that is resistant to the disease, but it will be many years before this historic, World Heritage, waterway returns to her full former glory.

The estimated cost of addressing the problem is 200 million euros, of which actual felling is 68m€, replanting 54m€, bankside repairs 72m€ and protective measures 6m€.

VNF Regions

VNF has recently experienced administrative reorganisations, including the taking on board of some state personnel.

There are now seven regional authorities –
1. Seine (including Nantes)
2. Nord/Pas-de-Calais
3. North-East (including Haute-Marne)
4. Strasbourg
5. Rhone-Saone
6. South-West (including Dordogne and Lot-et-Garonne)
7. Burgundy-Centre

The Burgundy region change reflects the abandonment of the previous scheme to devolve responsibility locally.