French port deal for Chinese silicon giant

Port of Marseille Fos Quechen Silicon Chemical is planning to build a plant in the Fos industrial zone. Credit: Port of Marseille Fos

Marseille Fos Port Authority and Quechen Silicon Chemical have signed a construction agreement for the Chinese company’s €105m project to build a plant on a 12-hectare site in the Fos industrial zone, adding to speculation about China’s growing influence in Europe.

Quechen is the world’s third biggest producer of silicon used in making ‘green’ vehicle tyres. Due on stream in 2021, the largest Chinese-owned factory in France will generate 130 direct jobs and annual cargo throughput of 400,000t.

Quechen’s CEO Que Weidong confirmed the agreement at a ceremony on 25 March, attended by China’s president Xi Jinping during his state visit to France. During the president's visit to Italy, the country become the first G7 country to sign a Belt and Road initiative MOU with China, which Drewry senior analyst Neil Davidson said had the potential to distort the port market.

Planning underway

Quechen signed an initial letter of intent with the port authority in January 2018. A ground lease was sealed last October, enabling site surveys to start.  Since then, the technical design and planning application processes have been underway with assistance from the port authority and ‘economic attractiveness’ agency Provence Promotion.

The Fos industrial zone is occupied by member companies of the Plateforme Industrielle et d’Innovation de Caban Tonkin (PIICTO), an association formed with the port authority to synergise activities, development and innovation.

Other parties involved in the Quechen project include three regional and local government authorities, Business France and the Marseille Provence Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

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