port.of.vigo.roro.vesselsRenault is to make use of the Spanish north-western port of Vigo to dispatch finished vehicles built at its plants in Valladolid and Palencia to Nantes, on a ‘motorways of the sea’ route to western France. The carmaker intends to export around 30,000 units a year to France. However, this figure could rise significantly, depending on the success of the Captur, Megane and Kadjar models.

The motorways of the sea strategy aims at introducing sustainable intermodal maritime-based logistics chains. Export volumes will be moved by train to O Porriño, from where they will be forwarded to the port of Vigo by truck for onward despatch.

Ignacio López-Cháves, president of Vigo port authority, said that the new service was a step forward for the port, which already handles vehicles from the PSA plant in Galicia. He noted that shipping line Suardíaz was playing a key role in the overall logistics chain, as was Gefco.

However, the motorways of the sea route out of Vigo actually operates at a loss and is seeking subsidies from the European Union to offset these prior to traffic building up to sustainable levels. At present, Suardíaz is absorbing the loss in the expectation that both the number of clients and the amount of cargo will rise. Indeed, the company's commercial director has confirmed that the level of business is developing in line with expectations. Nevertheless, EU subsidies will help support this transition period.

 “We are hoping that, if things continue to develop as they are at the moment, we will be able to survive without subsidy within a reasonable time,” noted the company.

In terms of load factor on board vessels, this can vary considerably. Saturdays see a 100% uptake of capacity on northward bound service, dropping to 80%-90% on the return leg. Mondays and Wednesdays on the otherhand still require a major boost to traffic to justify their operation. Suardíaz says it would be happy with an average load factor of 70% on north service and 50%-60% southbound ones.

In a separate development, as of June 18, Höegh Autoliners has included Vigo on its monthly EUCA service, which links Europe with the Caribbean, Mexico and the US East Coast. The EUCA service also connects in Tangier with the company's EUAF service, allowing transshipment with African countries such as South Africa and Mozambique, as well as with those in the Indian Ocean, Australia and New Zealand.

On the new service out of Vigo, 4,500-unit capacity vessels are being deployed.