EXECUTIVE: FRANCE NOT READY FOR PRIVATELY RUN PORTS

EXECUTIVE: FRANCE NOT READY FOR PRIVATELY RUN PORTS

French ports may be reorganized but not privatized, a government adviser on maritime issues said recently.

Jacques Dupuydauby, president of the advisory body of the National Council on Port Communities, said that despite the need for changes in the way French ports are managed, "French mentality is not ready for private ports."He said that the government seems ready to make some changes but port privatization is not one of them. In recent months, a number of major French cargo-handling companies have urged the government to relinquish some control over terminals and port management to the private sector.

According to Mr. Dupuydauby, the private sector may be asked to play a bigger role on the board of directors of various port authorities, but at the same time "the role of the state will be reaffirmed."

Which part of the state runs the country's port, however, could be a key issue in coming years. French port authorities currently are administered by the French Transport Ministry in Paris.

Mr. Dupuydauby says that regional politicians should take over much of this role, especially in terms of funding, since ports play a major role in local economies and France's central government is strapped for cash.

Mr. Dupuydauby recently wrote a report on French port policy, which recommended a series of sweeping changes. Included in the reforms was banding some ports together to put an end to regional rivalries.

Last week, Mr. Dupuydauby said that it is likely the ports of Le Havre and Rouen, France's largest container and grain ports, respectively, could be merged into a "lower River Seine" conglomerate.

_ Tara Patel