Barcelona, logistics centre of southern Europe

JUNE 2012

15-03-01Located in the north-east of the Iberian peninsula, Barcelona is the great capital of the Mediterranean Pyrenees Euro-region, which in 2004 was made up of the autonomic governments of Catalonia, the Balearic Islands, Aragon and the French Languedoc-Roussillon and Midi-Pyrénées departments.

The aim is to create a pole of sustainable economic development by coordinating their policies, which particularly include improving the accessibility of all of their territories by deploying the transport network, and especially the Mediterranean Corridor.

The Euro-region gathers more than 15 million inhabitants and 800,000 companies, and Barcelona and its surrounding area are the true central axis. In fact Catalonia has more than 3,400 international companies and receives 37% of foreign investment in Spain. To make this whole network function, logistics is a key sector in two senses: as economic activity in itself and thanks to the support it gives to the rest of the business and productive fabric.

15-03-02In this sense, the strategic geographical location, the complete infrastructure network (port, airport, fairground and logistics parks) and its business fabric make Barcelona, and Catalonia by extension, the great logistics centre of the Euro-region. In fact, Catalonia has been the spearhead of the State in developing logistics as a tool for economic development.

Proof of this is the fact that for 12 years it has been home to the International Logistics Exhibition (Salón Internacional de la Logística – SIL) which will be holding its 13th edition from 5 to 7 June in the Gran Via complex, revealing the strength of infrastructures such as Barcelona port and airport, both key elements in developing the sector in our country.

Leading port needs railway

15-03-03Barcelona port has been given a great drive in recent years. Both in terms of income (158 million Euros) and in results, Barcelona port is the leader of the Western Mediterranean.

The port is also modernising its facilities with the construction of a new quay (Prat quay) and the extension of another (the South quay) to enable cargo traffic to be increased between the Catalan port and the rest of the world.

This is the case of the Russian firm Lukoil, which along with the Catalan Meroil has recently opened a hydrocarbon terminal with thirteen tanks and a capacity of 360,000 cubic metres. In the summer, the new Tercat, terminal will also be being opened, held by the Chinese Hutchinson company. With an investment of over 500 million Euros, this will be the most advanced semi-automated container terminal in the Mediterranean.

15-03-04The president of Barcelona port, Sixte Cambra, points out that “only 25% of traffic from Asia reaches the Mediterranean ports, whereas the rest reaches the ports in northern Europe” and says that “this reality must change”. For this to be possible, Cambra believes that it is “essential to improve the railway accesses” to the port and to go ahead with the Mediterranean Corridor, which “is a fundamental tool to balance the cargo trade” between the ports of the north and south of Europe.

Despite the optimism aroused last October by the European Commission’s decision to include the Mediterranean Corridor as a priority of the basic European transport network that has to be fully operative by 2030, budgetary difficulties and indecisiveness have meant that the necessary push has not been given to this infrastructure.

For the moment, the Minister of Public Works, Ana Pastor, has announced that the government will only build a third railway track for cargo between Alicante and the French border, with an investment of around 1,500 million Euros. However, the construction of a double European gauge track for passengers and goods, that is to say the Mediterranean Corridor as such, has not yet been given a specific date. Unfortunately.

EDUARDO PÉREZ MOYA

* Main photo: Port of Barcelona – Juanjo Martínez