Private foreign investment helps boost growth in the Port of Barcelona

June 2013.- Catalan industry and commerce is open to the world, and Barcelona is a city open to the sea. The Port of Barcelona, located at the foot of Montjuic hill, forms part of the city’s history and today continues to act as one of its motors. On its own, it represents 1.4% of the Catalan GDP and generates additional earnings that are equivalent to 5.7% of Catalonia’s GAV.

The Port’s history

The construction of a port with anchorage charges, in an old Roman location, began in the mid 15th century. In the 16th century the movement of gold from the Americas through Barcelona onwards to Genoa defined its growth, which continued until the end of the 19th century, the period when the port defined its present structure, which then carried on during the 20th century when it’s significant commercial importance became evident.

Between 1907 and 1927, cargo traffic remained at around two or three million tonnes per year. The depression in the thirties, the civil war, the period of imposed self-sufficiency and the international blockades meant that these figures didn’t grow until the 1960s. During this decade traffic doubled, and between 1976-77 it doubled once again thanks to the increase in oil production.

A growth in quantity and quality

Currently, traffic in the Port of Barcelona is over 40 million tonnes. One hundred regular shipping lines connect it to 850 ports worldwide. Its logistics area, made possible thanks to diverting the mouth of the Llobregat river in 2004, extend to the airport and cover 206 acres and two international terminals (TCB and Tercat), representing over 3,000 meters of docking space, 17 container cranes and a depth of up to16 meters for all types of boats.

In fact, the current expansion is the largest in the Port’s history and will mean new cargo capacities – going from 50 to 130 million tonnes and 2.6 to 10 million TEU, multiplying by 2.3 the available port space and placing it amongst the top five European ports, as well as consolidating it as Europe’s major southern goods gateway.

The Port has also clearly positioned itself as a reference for quality, efficiency and a highly client focussed attitude. Efficiency Network, the Seal of Quality of the Port of Barcelona, is based on three commitments: operational reliability, accessible information and safety.

Europe’s southern cargo gateway

The Port of Barcelona channels a growing volume of exports and it does so to an increasingly more varied list of countries. 76% of Catalan exports and 22% of Spanish exports go through the Port.

With the new trends in international commerce, the trade flows between Europe and South East Asia are estimated at 16.8 M TEU per year. The time taken for this trade is reduced by 2 to 3 days if the Suez Canal is used and the cargo enters Europe via its southern ports (Barcelona, Marseille…). As well saving time, one can add lower costs, avoidance of heavy traffic in northern ports, a reduced environmental cost and a shorter distance to North African ports.

In this context the Port of Barcelona’s strategic location, nearby the city centre on one hand and the airport on the other, its proximity to the high speed train and the future Mediterranean corridor and the bordering Logistics Activity Zone, all make Barcelona a privileged intermodal logistics point within Europe.

Private foreign investment

The new container terminal, the Barcelona Europe South Terminal (BEST) is built and managed by TERCAT, a subsidiary of the Chinese group Hutchison and just one of the new investments which are part of the Port’s development.

The first phase of this infrastructure, opened in September 2012, has eight 42-metre cranes that can move 61 tonnes and a total capacity of 1.5 million TEU. The second phase, estimated for 2013 and 2014 will make it the most advanced Mediterranean semiautomatic container terminal.

In fact, a good part of the Port of Barcelona expansion comes from private foreign capital. The Italian group Grimaldi, for example, is investing in the new terminal for passenger lines, making Barcelona one of the most important destinations on its route network map. Furthermore, the Russian firm Lukoil is investing with Meroil in the new petrol storage and distribution platform. In total, projects currently in process with public and private financing, including both foreign and national and in areas such as containers, logistics, energy and leisure, represent an investment of some 1000 million euros.

Logistics, intermodality

The railway sector is the definitive boost to this great European southern cargo gateway known as the Port of Barcelona. The Mediterranean Rail Corridor, that connects the Spanish Mediterranean coast with Perpignan, Lyon, Torino, Milano, Venice, Ljubljana and Budapest, has been included as corridor number 3 in the new TEN-T network.

The Network Port is the network of internal maritime terminals of the Port connecting with Saragossa, Perpignon and Lyon, and the tmT-ZAL in Toulouse. Barcelona has daily rail connections with the centre of the Iberian Peninsula, it is the only Spanish port with European standard gauge track and linked to Europe via Lyon with the Barcelyon Express, a container rail service.

The ZAL is the Port of Barcelona’s logistics platform, a great international 206-acre hub with excellent intermodal connections and a strategic location. The building offer includes high quality multi-client warehouses, client keys-in-hand projects, the most advanced information technology and a wide portfolio of services to give maximum support to storage and distribution services.

Short Sea Shipping

Barcelona is the leading port in the Iberian Peninsula for Short Sea Shipping (SSS), with efficient service and frequent connections with the major Mediterranean and North African ports. It has two terminals specialised in trucks, vehicles and passengers, with a new terminal adapted to this traffic being opened in 2013.

Cruise ships, leisure and services

Perfectly connected with the airport, the Port of Barcelona is Europe’s leading cruise ship port and Mediterranean base, only surpassed by Miami. It receives over 2.4 million cruise ship passengers every year and has 7 international passenger terminals and the capacity to berth 10 large ships simultaneously. The cruise ship terminals (with significant investments from private operators and leaders in specific safety and logistics for cruise ship traffic), located only 400 metres from public transport connecting to the city centre, represent the culmination of the relationship between the Port and the city. In fact, in the coming month of September, Barcelona will host Seatrade Med, the sector fair for the Mediterranean cruise industry.

On the other hand, the Port Vell (The Old Port), opened in 1995 is also still closely integrated into the heart of the city. Over 200 companies are based there and 16 million people, generating 7,000 direct places of work and a business volume of over 300 euros per year, visit it annually.


The Port of Barcelona handles a total traffic volume of 42.6 million tonnes, a cargo with a value of 52,000 million euros and moves over 3 million passengers.

The new BEST terminal, built and managed by Tercat, a subsidiary of the Chinese group Hutchison, is just one of the new investments which are part of the Port’s development.

The Port of Barcelona is Europe’s leading cruise ship port and Mediterranean base, only surpassed by Miami. It receives over 2.4 million cruise ship passengers every year.

Catalonia in Business