This article is a French marine industry overview in which we will present the French marine industry and its major sub-sectors, especially the naval, nautical and port industries.
You will learn all there is to know about how and where France builds ships, repairs them and where they moor. There is also one chapter on port activities in France, one on future opportunities and one on how you can access the French marine industry.
Overview of the French Marine industry
The French marine industry is one of the leading industries in France. France frequently ranks in the top 10 countries in the world or Europe for shipbuilding, marine technologies, offshore energy technologies, ship repairs and maintenance, and port technologies.
The French marine industry is composed of various sub-sectors such as:
Offshore Oil & Gas products/services
The French marine industry is generating 32 billion euros of annual revenues. It employs nearly 120,000 people in France. The industry growth expected by key French players between 2018 and 2022 was more than one billion euros (forecast made before the COVID-19 pandemic).
The French Naval industry
In this section, we define the naval industry as all the sub-sectors of the shipbuilding industry: building large vessels like cargoes, yachts, defense ships, cruise ships, etc.
France is currently the fifth largest shipbuilder in Europe and the thirteenth worldwide. The French naval market represents 12.3 billion euros of annual revenues (nearly 15 billion US dollars). This number went up six years in a row before the worldwide pandemic in 2020. Annual growth of +5% was the last growth recorded.
Our report “Overview of the French marine industry” includes a few graphs showing the market split (by annual revenues or number of employees) between ship construction, maintenance and products/OEM/services.
Of these 12.3 billion euros of revenues, 44% are generated from export sales. The objectives declared publicly by French key players is to reach 50% of naval military revenues from exports by 2025.
The consequences of the pandemic on the French naval industry cannot yet be determined. However, there was a 20% potential loss of revenues estimated for 2020 from key French players.
The French cruise ship industry
In France, the estimated revenues generated by the construction of large boats were 1.1 billion euros in recent years, in the pre-COVID-19 era. In January of 2020, two billion euros of orders were signed. In France, four cruise companies represent 80% of the orders for new boats. You have to know that one location is big enough to build large cruise ships in France: Chantiers de l’Atlantique.
The French fishing boat industry
France holds the fourth position in Europe. It represents 11% of the EU catch in 2018, which is 700k tons of fishing products caught in France (all fishing products).
There are nearly 7,000 fishing boats in France, of which 4,600 are located on the mainland. The medium age for these boats is 27 years old (data 2017), and it is increasing over the years. The market clearly needs to renew the aging fleet.
The opportunity in the fishing sector is interesting: the French ecology ministry estimated in 2016 that 300 fishing boats need to be built or renovated per year.
The French Naval Defense industry
France is one of the best countries in the world for military shipbuilding. France has “complete expertise” in military shipbuilding. It can build all the most complex ships in the world (i.e., nuclear propulsion). Only the USA, Russia, and China can do the same.
From 2015 to 2019, France was the second worldwide exporter of military ships per ton and the third exporter by the number of ships. French builders export 35% of their generated revenues.
In terms of interior demand, 17 ships were delivered for the French Navy between 2015 and 2019 (56,900 Tons). The supply of ships will continue. France has launched the Ambition 2030 plan: France has planned a long-term vision to maintain a “complete and balanced Army model” which can withstand time. It is based on the National Army review report of 2017. The goal is to modernize the army and renew equipment.
As a result of Ambition 2030, the Military Planning Law 2019 – 2025 is the first step of Ambition 2030. It represents an investment of 200 billion euros in the armed forces over five years. Totaling 39.6 billion euros of investment per year on average.
The key players of the French naval industry and their location
The French naval market is highly concentrated towards two major shipbuilding companies: Naval Group and Chantiers de l’Atlantique (formerly known as STX France). Ninety percent of the naval industry is split between these two. However, a number of smaller shipbuilders generate good revenues (all proportion aside) and can represent a good opportunity for you if you are considering selling your solutions in France.
Before the pandemic, the growth for the construction of ships in France for the civilian and military sectors was 9%.
In the French maritime industry, the naval and nautical players are not exactly placed in the same locations. For the naval industry, 50% of the employees and locations of companies are in Bretagne (Brittany) and Pays de la Loire.
If you are interested in the list of the major naval shipbuilders in France with their annual revenues and a map showing you the French regions with the number of naval companies located there, feel free to download our report.
The French nautical industry
France positions itself as a worldwide leader in this industry too. France is the top country for manufacturing sailing boats and the fourth largest manufacturer of motorboats in the world. It is also the country where boats are rented the most in the seas and rivers. Some studies noted that if all types of leisure boats were combined, France would be the top manufacturer in Europe and second in the world.
The French nautical market consists of 5,601 companies employing 43,709 people. The total revenues generated in 2019 were 5.3 billion euros. The industry contains manufacturers of boats, repair companies, services companies, and nautical leisure companies.
Ports in France and their activities
There are +1,000 ports in France, and they generate one billion euros of revenues per year. Four hundred seventy-three are located on the shore and can welcome leisure boats. Five hundred fifty-six are inland ports, and they cover 8,500 kilometers of navigable waterways. Amongst all the ports, 40 are dry ports and include 11,000 places. The number of docking places available for leisure boats in France is 252,000.
Unfortunately, no French ports are amongst the top 20 worldwide freight ports.
Here are some major French ports per tons of merchandise:
- Grand port fluvio-maritime de l’Axe Seine – Le Havre, Rouen, Paris
Here are some major French ports per number of passengers:
- Grand port fluvio-maritime de l’Axe Seine – Le Havre, Rouen, Paris
Opportunities and perspectives of the French marine market
In France, a few sub-sectors are growing rapidly. There is an increasing demand for new and innovative technologies in the maritime industry. The promotion of green technologies and the use of environment-friendly solutions are pushing forward the needs of new products and services.
The major trends in France maritime industry right now are:
- Reduction of Fuel and CO2 emissions
- Marine Renewable Energies/Offshore energies: oil & gas, green energies
- Marine Exploration: underwater resources
- Cable systems
- Breaking/Disassembly of boats
- Hydrogen and electric boat docking stations in ports
- Smart ports, Artificial Intelligence in boats
Building ties with the French marine market
There are a few ways you can use to start building your network or client base in France.
Our two favorites are:
- Connecting with an industry association in your sector.
- Attending or exhibiting at a French trade show.
French marine industry associations
French marine industries associations main missions are to gather manufacturers and service providers of their sub-sector and promote their interests nationally and internationally.
We have identified five relevant marine industry associations in France with national coverage and three with regional coverage.
The two major ones are:
- GICAN: French Naval industry association
- FÉDÉRATION DES INDUSTRIES NAUTIQUES (FIN): French Nautical industry association
French marine trade shows
Exhibiting at or visiting a trade show is a good approach to growing your business in France. French marine trade shows gather international companies from the sector as well as potential buyers.
We have identified nine major marine trade shows in France, and at least 40 in Europe - of which the list can be found in our blog post Top 40 Marine industry trade shows in Europe. Combined, they attract 400 exhibitors on average (from 150 to +800) and 360,000 visitors in total (B2B and B2B) every year.
France is one of the best countries in the world for boat and ship manufacturing. Most of the supply chain is present: from shipbuilders, subcontractors, suppliers to service providers.
The French naval and nautical markets are great opportunities for growth if you are supplying these industries. Especially because all kinds of boats and ships are made in France: cruise ships, cargoes, sailing boats, motorboats, fishing boats, defense boats and submarines.