Information about the 47km long Liaison Rhône-Fos-Marseille

Liaison Rhone-Fos-Marseille Map France

This name covers a series of canals connecting Marseille to the Rhône, which have seen many changes over the years. The former Canal de Marseille au Rhône was closed as a through route after failure of a section of the 7km long Rove tunnel. Although the canal remained open to navigation it carried very little traffic, since the 38.50m barges for which it was designed were unable to navigate on the Rhône. The Canal maritime Saint-Louis (see under Rhône) was the obligatory route for commercial barges and the preferred route for boats. However, with completion of canalisation works on the Rhône in 1980, it became necessary to provide a safe link between the river and Fos (and Port-de-Bouc) for large push-tows, which had to split to negotiate the lock at Port-Saint-Louis, and were often delayed by rough water conditions in the Gulf of Fos. Enlargement of the existing Canal d’Arles à Fos would have been too costly, so a new canal was opened from the Rhône at km 303 to Darse 1 at Fos. The canal uses the last 2km of the canal d’Arles à Fos, for which purpose the anti-salt lock had to be demolished. The replacement structure on the canal upstream of the junction with the new cut is an anti-salt barrier, which obstructs navigation. The Canal d’Arles à Fos is therefore closed as a through route. The Rhône-Fos link is not open to private pleasure boats, which must continue to use the canal maritime Saint-Louis.

The waterway described here is divided into several sections: the Rhône-Fos junction canal (PK 0-11), including the branch to be built to provide a direct link to the container terminal (shown on the map below), the basins of the port of Fos (PK 11-18), the Fos-Bouc junction canal (PK 18-27), finally the Canal de Marseille au Rhône (PK 27-47), including the Caronte Canal.

The waterway is open to push-tows of international dimensions throughout, but the last section will remain a dead end unless the Rove tunnel is reopened. It should be noted that traffic through the narrow cutting in Port-de-Bouc is one-way only, controlled by lights.Liaison Rhone-Fos-Marseille Map Region

History – This waterway is made up of several canals built at different times. The Canal d’Arles à Bouc was built under concession by a private company and opened in 1834. It provided sheltered access to the port of Bouc. The extension east to Marignane and Marseille, including the Canal de Caronte and the Rove tunnel, was built in 1911-1927, and the 22m wide tunnel was big enough for coastal shipping. It collapsed in 1963 and has remained closed since then.Restoration for various functions is regularly envisaged. In 1970, development of the port of Fos resulted in closure of part of the canal. A new anti-salt lock was built to give access from the canal to one of the basins (Darse 1) of the port of Fos, and the canal changed its name to Canal d’Arles à Fos. In 1982 the new high-capacity canal was built from the Rhône to Darse 1, and the anti-salt lock was demolished. The only route from Fos to Arles was then through the new canal. A new link for inland water transport is to be built between the canal and the container terminal (Darse 2). The canal east of Fos is expected to be transferred to the region.

Key Waterway Dimensions

  • Max Beam: 12.0m
  • Max Draught: 3.20m

Local Waterway Links


Locks – There is just one lock on the waterway, near the entrance from the Rhône at Barcarin. It has the same dimensions as the locks on the Rhône, 195 by 12m, and overcomes a difference in level ranging between a few centimetres and 2.30m when the Rhône is in flood.

Draught – The maximum authorised draught is 3.20m between the Rhône and Port-de-Bouc. The available depth in the last section to the Rove tunnel is only slightly less.

Authority – Grand port maritime de Marseille: – 23 place de la Joliette, BP 1965, 13226 Marseille cedex 02

Click to enlarge

Liaison Rhone-Fos-Marseille Waterway Strip

Route description

PK 0.0     Junction with Rhône (PK 316)
PK 1.9     Lock (Barcarin), VHF 12, bridge
PK 4.7     Future junction with high-capacity link to Darse 2 container terminal
PK 9.0     Anti-salt barrier l/b
PK 9.7     Bridge (D268)
PK 9.8     Railway bridge
PK 11.3     Navigation enters Darse 1 of port of Fos (end of Rhône-Fos junction canal)
PK 16.0     Navigation enters Darse Sud of port of Fos
PK 18.3     Limit of Darse Sud, navigation enters Fos-Port-de-Bouc junction canal
PK 20.1     Turning basin (Carrefour des Joncs)
PK 21.6     Fos-sur-Mer bridge, village 700m
PK 24.5     Moorings south bank (for vessels waiting to proceed through one-way cutting)
PK 25.2     Railway bridge
PK 25.9     Bridge
PK 26.7     Port-de-Bouc railway and road bridges
PK 27.1     End of one-way cutting, basin (Port-de-Bouc)
PK 28.1     Entrance to Canal de Caronte
PK 30.3     Railway viaduct (Caronte)
PK 31.7     Motorway bridge (A55)
PK 32.2     Access to port de plaisance (Ferrières), in north arm, 10 berths, night €17.50, water, electricity, shower, crane 16t, pump-out, repairs
PK 32.9     Martigues lift bridge (Jonquières), navigation enters Étang de Berre
PK 33.2     Boat harbour (Port Sainte-Anne), 160 berths, night €15, water, electricity, showers,  crane, slipway, pump-out, repairs
PK 38.1     Cutting (La Mède)
PK 38.2     La Mède quay, access to Étang de Berre opposite, village 700m
PK 39.8     Bridge (Jai)
PK 44.6     Basin (Bolmon)
PK 45.5     Marignane basin, village 1200m north, entrance to Gignac cutting
PK 45.8     Road and railway bridges (Floride)
PK 46.6     Bridge (Toës)
PK 47.4     Entrance to Rove tunnel (navigation interrupted)