Bordeaux, the “Bassins à Flot” wet docks: maintaining an active port as part of the urban project

Published by  18 November, 2015 10:37 am Leave your thoughts

Interview : Etienne Naudé, Head of Strategy & Development at Grand Port Maritime de Bordeaux (GPMB)

 Etienne Naudé, Directeur de la stratégie et du développement au Grand Port Maritime de Bordeaux (GPMB)

The port of Bordeaux reported that the ship repair yard of the “Bassins à Flot” had welcomed its first vessels. The presence of this ship repair activity at the heart of “Bassins à flot” project can be seen as a reflection of the commitment to maintaining an active port as part of this major urban redevelopment.

AIVP : In a recent newsletter, the port of Bordeaux reported that the ship repair yard “Bassins à Flot” had welcomed its first vessels: a 103 m river cruise boat, and the barge designed to carry parts for the Airbus A380. A new phase is set to commence in 2016, as you look to consolidate your ambition of positioning Bordeaux in the yacht and superyacht refit sector. Can you tell us what this project means for Bordeaux?

Etienne Naudé (GPMB) : In recent years, the City of Bordeaux and the port have been promoting the development of the river cruise industry, with six river cruise boats currently in operation, ranging from 110 to 135 m in length. These vessels need to be regularly maintained and repaired, and that opens up possibilities for using the infrastructures. That was one of the reasons behind the agreement with the local authorities. Alongside that, the capacity to host these installations and their location in the heart of the built-up area naturally led us to position ourselves in the yacht and superyacht refit sector, notably thanks to the expertise of local businesses and the attractions of the city centre for crews.

AIVP : The issue of integrating this type of activity into the heart of an urban redevelopment project is crucial, of course. You launched an impact study to look at the effects of the project in 2013. To get an idea of the context, what kinds of urban functions are there currently – or planned – whether in direct contact with the dry docks and this centre of activity, or on the opposite side of the dock, and what are the main integration and impact mitigation solutions that have been adopted?

Etienne Naudé (GPMB) : The overall development programme decided on by the CUB (now Bordeaux Métropole) on 26 March 2010 set down the following figures:

  • Housing: 442,354 m² ;
  • Tertiary activities: 95,126 m² ;
  • Miscellaneous activities (industrial, sailing, etc.): 81,430 m² ;
  • Commercial & retail: 57,185 m² ;
  • Public amenities: 24,723 m².

Bordeaux, Programme d’Aménagement d’Ensemble (PAE) des Bassins à Flot répartition des différents type d'activités © Bordeaux Métropole

Bordeaux, Programme d’Aménagement d’Ensemble (PAE) des Bassins à Flot
répartition des différents type d’activités © Bordeaux Métropole

The wet docks represent a total of 220,000 m² of water, equipped with two dry docks measuring 150 and 100 m in length respectively. The activities associated with these dry docks form a separate component of the urban project in their own right, strengthening the identity both of the site and of the “Bordeaux Maritime” project. In order to allow co-existence with this new area of the city, and in agreement with the public authorities, it was decided to set up river boat maintenance operations here in these installations, and refits that do not require heavy works. Those will be carried out at another site.

AIVP : To take another example, how has the urban promenade planned to run the length of the wet docks, and in particular this ship repair sector, been made possible? And, looking beyond the issues of safety and potential environmental impact on people using the promenade, will it be an opportunity to create a genuine viewpoint to showcase this port activity?

Etienne Naudé (GPMB) : A range of possibilities is currently being looked at with the “Atelier des bassins à flot”, a consultation body consisting of the main stakeholders responsible for the project. The site will need to be fenced off for safety and security reasons, but it will be possible to walk around the ship yard, which itself represents an attraction for local residents and visitors.The fences will be transparent, allowing views of the dock activity.

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AIVP : Can your planned integration solutions be transposed to other sectors facing this same issue with the urban-industrial mix, such as the port activities along the river at the entrance to the “Bassins à flot” wet dock sector?

Etienne Naudé (GPMB) : All of the integration solutions (adapting the project to its environment, communications, presentations, tours, etc.) can be adapted for all port terminals.

AIVP : You have been discussing this project via the “Atelier des bassins à flot”, a consultation body that includes the Grand Port Maritime, the City, the Urban Community and private developers. To get a better understanding of the role played by this consultation-based approach in defining the city-port project, can you briefly summarise the areas of discussion or conflict around this specific project, and give us some concrete examples of how the Atelier influenced the initial project?

Etienne Naudé (GPMB) : Discussions in the “Atelier des bassins” were productive. The main fears raised were the result of people assuming the refit yards were going to be a heavy industry, a source of noise and pollution. That’s why we organised a tour of VIAREGGIO (Italy). The professionals we met there included the manager of a yard, who summed up this type of activity perfectly by saying: “a refit yard is not a heavy industry, it’s the Champs Élysées and the Place Vendôme… “. River vessel maintenance can also be integrated into the urban project, and very quickly became an obvious choice. A decision was also taken to focus on yacht refit activity. These different aspects of the shipyard project were looked at as part of an impact study, which allowed us to identify sensitive areas and define the impact prevention and control measures necessary to properly integrate these fast-growing activities, which generate jobs and added value for the whole urban project.

Projet des Bassins à flot from seppa on Vimeo.

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