Maritime transport and shipping services

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Les armateurs français. Une flotte jeune, une offre complète et diversifiée 

A relatively new fleet and a full and diversified range of services 

In 2015, there were around a hundred French shipping companies operating 1,000 vessels, 517 of which under the French flag. A significant asset of the French shipping industry with an average age of 7 years, the fleet is one of the newest and most diversified in the world. 

Concerned about environmental and safety issues, at the forefront of the technological innovation, French shipowners rally to continuously improve the operating conditions onboard their ships. They lean on well trained seafarers, whose skill is recognized internationally. 

So many key points which place in a recurring way the French flag at the top of the “white List” of the international classification of the “Memorandum of Paris on the control of ships by the State of the Port”. Through this classification, it is the excellence of the French flag that is recognized regarding safety and social and environmental standards which is distinguished on the international maritime scene. 

In short sea shipping as well as in long-distance trip, the French shipowners are present all around the world and transport quite a large variety of goods. Under French flag, they ensure the strategic and energy supplies of our country. Well represented in the passengers transport, they also serve the French islands and Europe. For several years, French shipowners have been very present on service activities: oceanographic research, installation of cables, oil offshore, renewable marine energies, etc. 

With world champions but also a very dense tissue of small and medium-sized enterprises from the coast and the ultramarine, the French shipowners are in the outposts of the globalization and assure the link between France and the rest of the world. 

Armateurs de France

Armateurs de France, the trade organisation for French shipping and maritime services companies, represents 54 French companies. 

Armateurs de France is tasked with: 

  • Protecting and promoting the interests of French shipping companies. 
  • Representing these companies when dealing with French, Community and international authorities. 
  • Assuming a public relations role and promoting the image of French shipping and maritime services. 
  • Negotiating collective bargaining and industry-wide agreements. 
  • Providing information and advice to its members.

The main areas of activity of shipowners



A French group making history, third in the world in container transport. 

  • Turnover of US$ 16.7 billion in 2014. 
  • 465 ships, 89 of which are company-owned. 
  • 12,2 million TEU transported in 2014. 
  • Extensive geographic coverage: 655 agents served in 16 countries 
  • 22,000 employees including 4,700 in France.



A family owned SME, Marfret operates as both a sea carrier and shipowner. The company employs 150 people and has a turnover of € 190 million. With its 5 regular lines, Marfret has a strong territorial presence in three main geographical areas: 

Europe and the Mediterranean, America and the Caribbean, and the South Pacific.



Solid bulk transport is especially well represented by Louis Dreyfus Armateurs and:


ABCRM is a subsidiary of SMO, a family-owned company for more than 25 years. ABCRM offers services for the carriage of goods by sea and on the river with premium quality vessels whilst taking advantage of ongoing investment in order to comply with its clients’ needs. The fleet operated by ABCRM is comprised at the moment of 4 vessels: André Michel 1, Laguêpe, Frelon and AM Larafale

3 vessels are operated on the Rhone-Mediterranean trade. AM Larafale is operated in the Bay of Biscay and around the Iberian peninsula. They transport all types of products: bulk, general cargo, project cargos. The annual freight volume represents more than 300,000 MT. 

Its office at Port-Saint-Louis du Rhone is in charge of the operation of the above vessels and ship agency for their calls on the Rhone river. 

ABCRM also acts as shipbrokers in order to enable its clients use of their knowledge and their extensive network. 

The company also organizes river transports on all inland waterways. 

Agence Maritime de l’Ouest

Founded in 1912 in Paimpol in Brittany, the company was specialized in short sea transport. Gradually, it has expanded its activities and is now acting as ship owner, ship manager, operator, ship broker, stevedore and freight forwarder. Conventional and dry bulk transport, project cargo, towing and marine projects is the core business of the company, which has subsidiaries in Hamburg and Rotterdam. Moreover, it has three joint ventures in conventional chartering, heavy lifting and towing sectors.

Compagnie Armoricaine de Navigation

Compagnie Armoricaine de Navigation (CAN) is a sand-dredging operator, a subsidiary of the Roullier group. CAN operates two sand dredgers, “Côtes de Bretagne” and “Côtes d’Armor”, registered in Paimpol. They extract marine calcium amendments and siliceous materials from proprietary and third-party deposits along the coasts of northern Brittany and the Atlantic Ocean. These two ships also operate on maritime projects such as re-sanding beaches and hydraulic embanking. 

Dragages – Transports et Travaux Maritimes

DTM, together with its subsidiaries SDO and Sablimaris, is a sand dredging ship owner that specializes in extraction, transportation, treatment and sale of marine aggregates. DTM operates along the French West Atlantic coast between La Rochelle and Brest. DTM operates two trailing suction hopper vessels that supply the four sand terminals of Sablimaris and his clients GSM and LAFARGE. Gaining sand at sea requires accurate and extensive preliminary studies undertaken by specialist consultants. This activity is part of the sustainable management of the sand resources and is organized within the frame of tough regulations and formal administrative authorization procedures.

Louis Dreyfus Armateurs

LOUIS DREYFUS ARMATEURS group (LDA), founded more than 160 years ago, is a French family-owned Group active in maritime transportation and services. 

Offering a worldwide presence with over 2,000 staff and 60 vessels, LDA group is organized around two core businesses: 

Dry Bulk & Logistics: dry bulk transportation with LD BULK; industrial projects, offshore transhipment and port logistics for dry bulk with LD PORTS & LOGISTICS. 

Industrial services: transportation of heavy and specialized cargoes with FRET-CETAM for AIRBUS; cable laying and maintenance with ALDA MARINE (partnership with ALCATEL-LUCENT SUBMARINE NETWORKS), submarine cable installation/protection and services dedicated to marine renewable energies with LOUIS DREYFUS TRAVOCEAN; seismic research with GEOFIELD Ship Management Services (partnership with CGG).

Liquid bulk

French shipping companies are present in liquid bulk transport with more than 60 tankers carrying raw and refined bulk cargoes. These shipping companies compete actively in a rapidly expanding global shipping market carrying goods for the most demanding international companies including Total (see page 25). Among shipping companies specialising in petroleum products, chemicals or liquefied gas are: 


Founded in 1957, Gazocean, subsidiary of the ENGIE group (see page 51) and of the Japanese Ship Owner NYK line, is one of the oldest shipping companies in the liquefied gas industry. Its expertise has been built up over more than fifty years of activity in this sector. 

Pioneer in the use of innovative technology in the highly specialized field of Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) shipping, Gazocean is in charge of the crew and technical management of a fleet of last generation of LNG Carriers. 

Based on its operational experience, Gazocean can offer consultancy, expertise and training services for shipping businesses.

Geogas Maritime SAS

Based in Paris, the shipping company Geogas Maritime SAS (“Geogas”) is successor to the Gazocéan Group, a pioneer in the transport and trading of LPG in the 1950’s. Geogas employs its fleet in the service of its Swiss sister trading company Geogas Trading SA and, excluding chartered vessels, operates a fleet of ten ships, the five largest of which under the French flag: Summit Terra (78,500 m3), Lapérouse (22,500 m3), Surville (35,000 m3), Verrazane (35,000 m3) and Philippine (3,000 m3). It has another two ships under the Maltese flag, Albane (8,600 m3) and Forbin (5,000 m3) and one registered in Panama, the Astrid (5,000 m3). The Pénélope (9,000 m3), currently under construction in Korea, will join them. 

At the beginning of March 2014 this specialist LPG carrier took delivery of the Surville. A sister ship to the Verrazane, which entered service last October, it is also registered under the French flag. The new ships allow Geogas Maritime to continue modernising its fleet (still very young incidentally) by replacing the René (2002) in particular, which was sold two years ago and taken back by the company under bareboat charter until delivery of the Verrazane in order to retain the crew. 

Ship renewal is set to continue as Geogas Maritime has placed an order for two VLGC (Very Large Gas Carriers) of 84,000 m3, to be delivered by Hyundai Group’s Samho shipyard in 2015 and 2016. 

For its French registered fleet, Geogas Maritime employs around sixty French officers while the crews are Romanian. The vessels are managed by a joint venture company formed between Geogas Maritime and V.Ships.


Socatra is leading provider of seaborne transportation service for crude and petroleum products. Its current fleet of 14 modern double-hull tankers with an average age of 4 years. 

The group also operates two ro-ro barges designed to carry oversized components for the Airbus A380 on the Garonne River. 

In addition, with five depots situated on the Atlantic coast, the group has a significant presence in the oil storage market. 

Socatra group is also prominent player in the river leisure cruise business in Paris (Vedettes de Paris).

Passenger transport

French shipping companies include large ferry operators. Brittany Ferries (see below), Corsica Ferries and SNCM are the largest. 

On October 2014, the French ferry fleet was comprised of: 

Brittany Ferries

Specialising in passenger and freight transportation, Brittany Ferries operates from France, Great Britain, Ireland and Spain. 

2,400,000 passengers (85% of these are British), 780,000 cars and 154,000 freight vehicles carried in 2014, 

E 376.5 million total turnover, 

10 passenger/freight ships serving 11 ports in 4 countries, 

2,450 employees (of which around 70% are seagoing). All are French nationals. 

Bringing to life the ‘motorwaysoftheseas’ concept along the Atlantic Arc, Brittany Ferries is the largest employer of French seafarers, and makes a strong contribution to the tourist economy of the regions of northwest France (generating 8.5million bed-nights and E 530 million spending). 

Over the last few years, Brittany Ferries has further developed its latest ‘motorway of the sea’ between Great Britain and Spain, helping unblock French roads, whilst capitalising on the popularity of Spain amongst British holidaymakers


The world’s only French-flagged cruise line and top cruise line worldwide in polar expeditions, PONANT has been an integral part of France’s great maritime tradition for over 25 years. 

The company currently has 5 distinctive and intimate vessels, embodying the essence of a private luxury yacht with fully bilingual crew: 

  • le Ponant, a three-masted sailing yacht (32 staterooms) 
  • and 4 luxury yachts (122 to 132 staterooms & suites), le Boréal, l’Austral, le Soléal and le Lyrial. 

These luxurious ships sail to the unexplored corners of the world including the Poles, Northern Europe, the Mediterranean, the Caribbean, Central America, South America, Asia, the Pacific, Australia and New Zealand.


TOWT - Sail-Shipping 

TOWT is a cargo-broker, commissioner import-export trading and certification company, which solely uses sailing ships to transport goods. At this day, over a dozen of tall ships have shipped over 450 tonnes of cargo for TOWT, for 320 tonnes of CO2 saved. Despite their apparent anachronism, TOWT regards tall ships as a leverage to develop a business whose needs can be met by new builds only. TOWT is currently undertaking an ambitious R&D project on a modern cargo sailing ship and is preparing the legal framework that will support future ventures. 



Offshore services



Operating in more than 50 countries, with a modern and standardized fleet of more than 500 vessels and 29 operating affiliates, BOURBON meets the needs of the most demanding clients by offering a wide range of marine services to the offshore oil and gas and wind turbine industry. The Group deploys its strategy for attaining operational excellence through: the competence & commitment of its crews, vessel integrity in all aspects - from design to standardization and maintenance - and the application of rigorous standards at all levels within the company. 

BOURBON prides itself on its commitment to local recruitment policies. 60% of the company’s workforce is hired locally, making proximity with clients one of the company’s key assets. The company’s global network of ship managers, BOURBON Training Centers and BOURBON Repair Centers make it possible to intervene anywhere in the world with the same level of quality and safety. 

Strong performance by the Group’s Marine Services and Subsea Services offers has positioned the Group as a leading service provider in the international market for offshore oil and gas production. 

Marine Services ensures: 

  • offshore installation supply, 
  • offshore installation anchor handling, towage and positioning, 
  • offshore oil and gas production and storage terminal support, 
  • personnel Transport, 
  • assistance, salvage and pollution, 
  • remediation. 

Subsea Services ensures: 

  • offshore operations engineering, supervision and management, 
  • offshore field and wind farm development support, 
  • subsea Inspection, Maintenance and Repair (IMR).


Created in 1961, COMEX led the way in industrial deep diving and became the world leader in manned and robotic underwater engineering, technology and interventions, crisscrossed the world’s seas. 

From the 90’s, COMEX has implemented a resolute spin-off policy concerning its technological and industrial know-how and the holding has now refocused on marine/subsea engineering and undersea services. 

COMEX owns a fleet of research vessels equipped with exploration and working tools down to 2,500 m. Vessels and tools are operated by a permanent team of experts. 

The engineering business unit is involved in all operations that need design and conception of new tools that can all be qualified in COMEX pressure chamber or water tanks. 

This mix between engineering, test facilities and operations gives a fantastic reactivity and assures to its clients a quality of works and results. 

Safety and confidentiality remain the two major aspects of COMEX operational or engineering projects.

Iroise Evasion

Created in 2010, Iroise Evasion offers the capability to perform a wide range of sea based services on behalf of large organizations. 

Operating in various environments, these include: 

  • all maritime operations ... 
  • surveys/data gathering relating to renewable energy, 
  • environmental studies, 
  • oceanography ... 
  • the transportation of personnel, 
  • the safety of waterways, 
  • nautical races transporting media and others parties to the starting point, 
  • nautical services for business seminars ... 

The company possesses 2 large inflatable vessels: one measuring 11m in length with 2 x 200 hp engines and the other measuring 10m with 2 x 250 hp engines. Both boats are professionnal tier 3 certified and one is transportable in land– NUC. 

Based in Camaret sur Mer, Iroise Evasion is present in Brest, at Sea Iroise and can be present at all over the other French coast and beyond.

JIFMAR Offshore Services

JIFMAR Offshore Services is the leading French company offering turnkey maritime solutions. 

Operating a modern fleet of vessels with highly qualified personnel, JIFMAR provides assistance to: 

  • offshore wind farm operators, 
  • marine construction & engineering firms, 
  • offshore oil & gas community, 
  • the defence community. 

JIFMAR provides offshore terminal management integrated Inspection-Maintenance-Repair (IMR) services combining project management, project engineering, workboats, multipurpose vessels, personnel transfer vessels, state-of-the-art ROV’s, and specialized tools and protocols to increase productivity and safety when working at sea above and below water.


Since 2009 ProLarge has developed its service of maritime project engineering and management. As prime contractor of all the means necessary for a project (sea vessels, aircraft, divers, etc…) the company is specialised in logistic and operational support for sea trials (70% of turnover) and marine surveying (20% of turnover). 

ProLarge also participates in maritime related studies, for the most part in preparation for subsequent project management (10% of turnover). 

Services provided: 

  • advice and study on the marine based aspects of a project; 
  • selection and chartering of the vessels and aircraft required for the project; 
  • implementation of peripheral equipment (measuring devices, AUV, current meters, etc…) 
  • establishment and management of a project team including deep-sea divers, engineers, experts, lawyers, crews, etc...; 
  • operation and coordination of the necessary means; 
  • management of the administrative environment and safety issues specific to a marine setting. 

The company began marketing its services abroad in 2011. 

The aim of ProLarge is to facilitate the development of its clients towards maritime issues.


The SeaOwl Group is a service provider specialised in a wide range of asset management, training and manpower supply services for the Maritime, Defence and Oil & Gas industries. 

The group provides professional staff, processes, technology and management expertise to clients requiring customized solutions to help grow and protect their business interests: 

Oil & Gas activities 

  • marine manpower management & training services 
  • Oil & Gas manpower management services 
  • drilling engineering manpower services 
  • turnkey facility management services 
  • ROV Manpower management services 
  • subsea ROV Inspections works 

Defense & security activities 

  • marine defense training 
  • helicopter & military equipment qualification services 
  • targets and drones (UAV, UUV) management 
  • integrated security & surveillance solutions

Thomas Services Maritimes

Shipowner TSM operates service vessels in marine renewable energy, offshore and deep-sea towage and harbour towage. 

TSM’s current fleet consists of 15 tugs stationed at different points on the Channel and Atlantic coasts. 

TSM is an experienced operator and works closely with its customers during their projects using its specialised vessels especially in the following fields: 

  • transport and personnel transfer to offshore wind farms, 
  • barge and platform towage, 
  • vessel assistance.

VDC Offshore

VDC Offshore specializes in workboat and crewboats chartering and the achievement of any types of mission at sea. VDC Offshore provides watch dog services on behalf of the French Navy, but also survey campaigns for offshore industries and differents other missions like personnel transfer, goods transfer or support in maritime works. VDC Offshore is located at Cherbourg and Lorient and can operate on all the French coast and in the both sides of the Channel.

Communication services

Eutelsat Communications

Established in 1977, Eutelsat is one of the world's leading and most experienced operators of communications satellites. The company provides capacity on 37 satellites to clients that include broadcasters, pay-TV operators, video, data and Internet service providers, enterprises and government agencies. Eutelsat is also among those who pioneered the operational validation of Automatic Beam Switching with a 1m dish antenna in Ku-band, enabling a vessel to automatically switch satellites. 

Eutelsat provides satellite coverage extending from the Americas to Asia-Pacific. Our company is also renewing its fleet, with capacity on three new satellites put into service in 2014 and four satellites to be launched by the end of this year. 

The Maritime sector benefits from such advanced technology that aims at offering a flexible and adaptable multi-regional solutions to maritime service providers thanks its teleports around the globe. 

Headquartered in Paris, with offices and teleports around the globe, Eutelsat represents a workforce of 1,000 men and women from 32 countries who are experts in their fields and work with clients to deliver the highest quality of service.

Submarine network solutions

Alcatel-Lucent Submarine Networks

Undersea fiber optic cables connect most of the world's people, businesses and institutions, not satellites. Lying on ocean floors, these submarine cable systems carry the vast majority of our international communications and data. Together, they form the backbone for the data centers powering the world wide web. 

Alcatel-Lucent is the world’s only fully integrated provider of turnkey submarine network solutions. Alcatel-Lucent brings all of the products and know-how needed to design and build optical communications links across the world’s oceans. 

From new deployments to network upgrades, regional links to transoceanic infrastructure, Alcatel-Lucent provides everything – starting with route selection and survey, through system design, manufacturing, installation and maintenance. 

Key facts 

  • more than 150 years of submarine cable system experience 
  • 25 years of fiber optic expertise 
  • a range of solutions with multi-terabit capacities for all applications 
  • more than 550,000 km of cable laid 
  • more than 300,000 km of cable under maintenance 
  • more than 200 fiber optic cable systems delivered 
  • more than 100 upgrades completed 
  • more than 6,300 repeaters manufactured 
  • a fleet of 7 fully equipped cable ships reseaux-sous-marins

Orange Marine 

Orange Marine is specialized in the field of submarine telecommunications from the initial design and engineering, to installation of intercontinental and regional links, and maintenance of existing cables. 

In operation since the mid-nineteenth century, the submarine cable industry FCR – France Cables and Radio - became a 100% subsidiary of Orange Group in 1999. 

Orange Marine offers a global service of submarine cables installation, providing them an experienced fleet and excellent knowledge of offshore operations. 

Besides its traditional activities of laying and maintenance of telecom cables, Orange Marine develops service offers on new markets, such as offshore and renewable energies. 

In numbers: 

  • 6 cable ships (15% of the global fleet), 
  • 3 cable storages, 
  • 175,000 km of cable laid, 
  • 500 repairs. 

Engine optimization

Efficiency Engine

French innovative company, has developed a new technology that allows optimization of diesel/gas engines and power generators. This innovative technology, Concept EE (world patented), by the analysis of the measures of engine data from the combustion gases and parameters monitored (T°, Pmax etc.), allows a new very precise vision of the engine operating. It allows to visualize all the stages of combustion, to associate one or several malfunctions and thus define the Real Signature of any diesel / gas engine. 

Thanks to its mobile scientific laboratory performing its measures in situ (material IMO) the EE Concept also allows to act immediately on a found defect and thus limit see Delete derivatives, cases, premature wear mechanical and of course the over-consumption and pollution resulting. 

In its approach to optimal research of efficiency, maintenance in operational condition (OCM) and preventive maintenance, Efficiency Engine established for each study unit 3-specific reports with recommendations: mechanic report (management of the efficiency chain of the combustion), environmental report (emission reduction), energy report (reduction of energy derivatives). 

Efficiency Engine, with the professionalism of its teams, acts on all the oceans.

Marine lubricants 


DEXTER OIL specialises in the distribution of marine lubricants to international shipping companies. The company is distributor of marine lubricants for the CHEVRON group in French-speaking countries (France, Francophone Switzerland, Francophone Africa, the Overseas Regions and Territories). It is also a specialist in logistic services in marine lubricants for ships stopping in France and Morocco. 

DEXTER OIL is part of the international supply chain ne twork of CHEVRON MARINE LUBRICANTS. 

DEXTER OIL is the exclusive agent of CHEVRON in the promotion and marketing of marine lubricants to international shipping companies in its zone of responsibility. 

The French registry for commercial vessels

Registre International Français 

The French flag RIF is the French registry for commercial vessels. 

The Guichet Unique is the special point of contact for shipping companies and agents for any transactions or questions regarding the French Flag or the management of vessels and their crews. It brings together the administrative divisions of customs and maritime affairs in one single office. A multi-disciplinary team stands ready to listen and respond to ship owners’ needs. 

Charterers and agents

Association des Utilisateurs de Transport de Fret (AUTF) 

Freight Transport Users Association represents the French shipper and numbers among its members, and actively furthers the interests of, several companies of the sector. 


AMCF (Agents Maritimes and Consignataires de France - Shipping Agents and Freight Forwarders of France) is the outcome of a merger between FACAM and SNAM. The FACAM is a federation of port associations, shipping agents and freight forwarders. SNAM is a syndicate representing shipping agents. 



With operations in more than 130 countries, TOTAL, a leading international oil company and a world-class operator in natural gas, refining and petrochemicals, plays a predominant role in both the French and the International Maritime Industry. 

TOTAL is primarily involved in the seaborne transportation of hydrocarbons: 

  • more than 3,000 voyages carried out annually by the group’s chartered fleet, 
  • approximately 115 million tons of hydrocarbons shipped annually, 
  • a fleet of around 50 vessels under time-charter, 
  • more than 100 vessels at sea at any given time. 
  • Total helped to pioneer the LNG industry and is today a leading player. 
  • The group employs a fleet of Gas Carrier under time-charter or through its participation in a large number of LNG projects.