Green light for Seine-Port 2000 access channel


This may not be the end of the story, as the CRPMEM de Normandie and the environmental groups have indicated that they will appeal the judgment.

The Administrative Court in Rouen has dismissed an appeal by local fishing bodies and environmental groups against the decree authorising the construction of a 1,800m long channel to connect the Seine directly with the Port 2000 tidal berths in Le Havre.

In January, the Seine Axis port authority (HAROPA) stated that the new access channel – known as the chatière (“cat flap”) – would in time lead to a six-fold increase in container barge traffic between its Paris and Rouen terminals and the tidal berths in Le Havre, transforming inland logistics in the Seine basin. HAROPA’s modal split today is 85% road and just 7% rail and 8% inland waterway.

There are already several trimodal terminals serving the huge Île de Paris consumer market, located on the Seine, Oise, and Marne.

The problem is that barge operations in Le Havre are mostly confined to the older terminals behind the François Premier lock, while traffic has largely migrated to the deepwater tidal berths at Port Deux Mille (Port 2000), which can accommodate the world’s biggest container ships.

Approval for the “cat flap” was granted in June 2023 by way of prefectoral decree. Work was scheduled to last two years, but an appeal was lodged jointly by a key fisheries group, the CRPMEM (Comité Régional des Pêches Maritimes et des Élevages Marins) de Normandie, and three environmental organizations – l’Association Écologie pour le Havre, l’Association Estuaire Sud et l’Association SOS Estuaire.

They argue that the scheme would irreversibly damage fish and shellfish breeding grounds, due to the large amount of sediment, estimated at between 2.8M m3 and 3M m3, that would have to be dredged and deposited elsewhere.

Green light for Seine-Port 2000 access channel
Credit: HAROPA

While accepting that barge access to the tidal berths is necessary to achieve modal shift at scale, they say that a better solution would be to construct new locks through the Port 2000 sea dyke or modernize the river fleet so that new vessels can undertake estuarial navigation. Both these proposals were made at the time the first Port 2000 berths were built.

However, the Rouen tribunal has now dismissed the appeal, on the ground that it is not sufficient to contest the legality of the decree, which followed HAROPA’s own analysis that the channel was the best solution. The result has been welcomed by HAROPA, the Normandy Regional Authority and the Prefectures for the Normandy Region and the Seine-Maritime Département.

However, this may not be the end of the story, as the CRPMEM de Normandie and the environmental groups have indicated that they will appeal the judgment before France’s supreme court, the Conseil d’État. In the meantime, HAROPA can now continue preparatory work on the channel’s protective embankment.

HAROPA has stated that it has reserved several millions of euros in the budget for the access channel to recreate any habitats or breeding grounds damaged by the project. Species at risk according to opponents of the channel are lemon sole, bass, American shad and lobster.

Written by Vincent Champion

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