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French Guiana

Offshore cargo platform is a mega project

In what must be one of the most unusual and ambitious port development projects anywhere in the Caribbean, a new offshore cargo handling platform is to be built off the coast of French Guiana.

The project, which is at a very early stage, is at present known just by its acronym, MOP (multi-use offshore platform), and is essentially designed to overcome the problems of shallow water that affects all ports in the immediate region.

Grand Port Maritime de la Guyane (GPMG) has consulted experts, but has yet to agree on the type of platform and choice of location. What is certain, however, is that the platform will be located on the Guyana continental shelf in 70 meters of water.


The offshore facility is expected to cost up to €1.6 billion and will be funded and operated as a public-private partnership (PPP). It will be 75 per cent public and 25 per cent private. For the time being, the project requires political and financial support from local authorities, the French government and the European Union.

Funds are also needed for future studies: risk mitigation and technical and environmental feasibility. These are likely to cost €600,000 over the next 18 months. A similar amount has already been spent on studies since 2014.

The platform is expected to accommodate two 13,000 teu neopanamax vessels at the same time and will provide quayage for feeder vessels to shuttle to and from the mainland and elsewhere.

In addition, the facility will be an oil and gas logistics base serving two or three production rigs. The French oil giant Total is already active in the area. An aquaculture farm will form a third element of the scheme, including offshore fish farming, seaweed harvesting and renewable energy (in order to make the platform self-sustaining).

Other investors have shown interest in setting up, for example, gasoline tanks and using the facility to accommodate large vessels. With its offshore location, it can be used for a range of activities that require space and deep water.

Most of the cargo handled is expected to be containers. But the facility will also be used for oil and gas logistics as well as aquaculture feed and products. Studies show that, when fully operational, the platform could be handling 300,000 teu per year, of which about half would be regional transshipment traffic.

This compares with just 55,000 teu per year now being handled at the port of Dégrad des Cannes. Greatly increased container volumes would be expected to bring about a big drop in freight costs for local importers – believed to be in the region of 30 to 50 per cent.

Other benefits for the local economy would come from the aquaculture element of the scheme. Studies show that this could generate about €30 million a year from, say, 5,000 tonnes of exports; rising to €100 million a year by 2030.

All in all, the platform is expected to create over 3,000 jobs in French Guiana and to boost the overseas department’s GDP by some three per cent – or about a third of the impact that the Kourou Space Center has on the local economy.

Philippe Lemoine, director general of GPMG, summed up the project to Caribbean Maritime: “The aim is to offer the Guyana shelf a way to become properly integrated into the new maritime neopanamax shipping environment, to ease local oil and gas logistical support as production sites move south and to develop sustainable aquaculture and bio transformation in areas where good conditions already exist.”

So, this is certainly a mega-project for the future – one that is due for completion only some time between 2022 and 2026 – but it’s certainly worth watching with interest.