Marine resources

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Access to marine resources is an economic imperative and a major technological challenge. The ocean is a reservoir of strategic resources, essential for both industry and our way of life and consumption. A rise of 30% in energy needs by 2030 and high expectations from marine mineral and biological resources have resulted in a race among States to prospect on the ocean floor, and numerous conflicts over the appropriation of maritime areas. Access to the deep and ultra-deep offshore resources is encouraging innovation and creating markets in which many French companies are seeking to position themselves. 

Indeed, France has world leaders in this field: CGG for prospecting especially by seismic methods, Technip and Saipem for designing platforms, floating units, subsea equipment and marine works, COMEX for deep-sea robotics, BOURBON for offshore services, Ifremer for research; and also operators and charterers - Total and ENGIE as well as ERAMET for mineral extraction. Start-ups, SME, ISE, local clusters – Neopolia, BPN – and the Pôles Mer, are also developing technological solutions and skills essential for exploiting all marine resources. 

In addition to these, there are others in the maritime sphere, particularly in shipbuilding, STX and DCNS, and in shipping with Louis Dreyfus Armateurs. Altogether they make up a comprehensive network of excellence in the offshore industry. 

So France has all the means to implement a strategy for the deep ocean and the sustainable exploitation of the marine resources. 

Marine mineral resources 

Technological and scientific advances have triggered a race to explore the deep seabed and to exploit its mineral resources, such as nodules, incrustations and sulphides. Major elements have been found there: barium, cobalt, copper, iron, manganese, nickel, lead, silica, zinc as well as precious metals, diamonds and the famous rare metals earths. 

The presence of strategic metals for industry (especially aviation, motor vehicles, high value added technologies) is especially interesting at a time when reserves and deposits on land are reaching critical level and when technology is demanding more and more of these resources. The possibilities of exploitation of these resources are very erratic as the costs involved – for access, extraction technologies, processing, etc. – are still too high to allow a profitable economic scheme to be created. 

A total of 19 mining exploration licences have been granted by the International Seabed Authority, on 6,000 km of mid-ocean ridges, or 7.5% of all mid-ocean ridges. These licences are subject to an initial entry payment of $500,000, and then an annual royalty of $50,000. 

France for its part is exploring in its Exclusive Economic Zone at Wallis & Futuna, and is awaiting regulatory measures to allow it to extract the resources. It has also obtained two exploration licences for international waters: a first in 2001 and up to 2016 for polymetallic nodules over 75,000 km. in the Clarion-Clipperton zone (the renewal of which is under study); a second in August 2012 for polymetallic sulphides along the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. At every level the environmental protection is a major concern of the French professional actors. 


ERAMET is a french mining and metallurgical group and a world leader in its businesses, particularly alloys and upscale metallurgy. ERAMET has al so begun explor ing or implementing major projects centered on strategic metals. Its expansion is supported by a responsible and sustainable development policy. 

Thanks to its innovative technologies, ERAMET is an expert in every stage of metal processing. 

From stainless steel and energy to motor vehicles, civil and military aircraft, transport and tooling, the group serves a wide array of markets. All of its customers are uncompromising on quality. 

E 3,162 million in turnover 

14,000 employees in 20 countries on 63 sites. 

Mineral resources also include a closely related family represented by the unconsolidated seabed sediments and siliceous and calcareous materials. Siliceous sands and gravels are used mainly in the building industry by companies such as Lafarge or Ciments Calcia. In France the share of granulates from marine sources is only 1%, while in other countries the proportion is much higher (15% in Great Britain). 

The greater pace of urbanisation, new routes such as the new railway lines and their renewal have made marine granulates an increasingly more strategic resource. 30,000 tonnes of granulates are needed for 1 km of motorway, 10,000 tonnes for 1 km of railway, 300 tonnes for a house. Demand will no doubt result in the resources being extracted beyond the current depth of 30-45 m, which will present technological and environmental challenges requiring know-how few operators possess. The UNPG is the representative body for these operators, among which is the Compagnie Armoricaine de Navigation

UNPG - Union Nationale des producteurs de Granulats

The National Union of Aggregate Producers (UNPG) is the trade body representing sand and gravel producing companies. Out of an annual production of 360 million tonnes of aggregates (2012), 7 million are siliceous and calcareous aggregates of marine origin. 

About a dozen companies extract marine aggregates using around fifteen sand dredgers which supply some twenty French ports. The activity employs 650 people both at sea and ashore (sand terminals). It generates a turnover of around € 70 million. 

The task of the UNPG is to look after the collective interests of its members. Its role also includes assisting them and providing information in fields as varied as access to the mineral resource, legislation, environmental protection, product quality, the economic climate, etc. 

Resources in biology and biotechnology 

Valoriser les bioressources marines

Exploiting marine bioresources 

Marine bioresources are the products, co-products and by-products of fishing and multi-trophic aquaculture, marine organisms, fungi and halophytes. 

The exploitation of these product s, f rom production to processing, gives rise to many applications: human and animal nutrition, agriculture, healthcare, cosmetics, chemicals, etc., which are industries undergoing expansion. Their exploitation generates a high degree of innovation and collaboration as new opportunities emerge. 

Although marine bioresources still represent a small part of our maritime economy, their markets are set to expand in the decades to come to meet the challenges of the 21st century. Therefore coordination among the stakeholders, producers and users of bioresources is an essential condition for satisfying these markets and for making the sector competitive, especially in the value chain. 


Biotechnology is a fast-expanding specialist area. It depends on both knowledge and availability of the prime resources, whether fish co-products, algae or other vegetable or animal organisms. The prospects in biotechnology are inducing companies – start-ups and SMEs as well as large groups – to invest to determine the economic potential of the resources. 

The world biotechnology market will reach $320 billion in 2015 and already in France the consolidated turnover is E 261 M. 


Biotechnology in its various forms has multiple industrial applications. It is not easy at present to determine what part marine resources will play in the biotechnology industry, because companies are associated with the market where the applications of biotechnology are found. The estimates and calculations tend to see marine biotechnology representing a market estimated to be $4.1 billion by 2015. 

Algae culture 

Marine biological resources have a growing part to play in biotechnology, especially in the case of algae, one of the principal marine resources exploited on a large scale for biotechnology and being used more and more in human nutrition. Although algae culture is a recent sector in France and in Europe, it is already expanding rapidly. There are nearly 80 companies generating a production value of E 426 M. France produces 60,000 tonnes of algae and imports 55,000 tonnes of it, 80% of which is for colloids and 20% for fine chemicals. A number of structuring projects have been set up to develop this industry, with the aim of achieving 1,000 hectares of algae culture by 2015. 

With numerous innovative companies, such as Aleor, cutting edge research operators like CEVA, Ifremer, and those engaged on projects such as the Pôles Mer, the Pôle Aquimer and other specialised clusters, France has the means to be a leader in biotechnology markets. 

With such an important scientific and economic opportunity at stake, it is important to implement without delay a proper strategy for structuring and sustaining a maritime branch in biotechnology. 


Aléor is an industrial enterprise that specialises in developing products and expertise in marine algae. Using new methods of cultivation and drying, Aléor supplies a consistent, graded, high quality raw material. Its technologies enable it to provide traceability at all stages in its production. 

Thanks to cutting edge research and development in algae husbandry, reproduction and growth, Aléor provides services enabling industrial developments to take place using algae, a raw material under pressure that offers great promise in terms of value creation. 

Centre d’Étude etde Valorisation des Algues 

The CEVA (Center for Study and Promotion of Algae), located at Pleubian in the Côtes d’Armor (France), is a private research organization and a technical center of the ACTIA network, labeled as Agro-Industrial Technical Institute (ITAI) by the French Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries. 

Located in the most productive European region for algae, and bordering an important alga field on a territory favorable to their culture, the CEVA is the only technical center in Europe dedicated to the study and promotion of algae. 

Created in 1982 with the support of local Brittany groups and industrials of the alga field, it organizes a research applied on algae (macro & micro), seagrass and marine biotechnologies. In particular, it ensures the transfer of scientific knowledge from the academic world to the industry field. 

The CEVA has 25 permanent staff members. Among them, 18 have a college degree (technicians, engineers, PhDs in sciences). It owns a high-performance tool adapted to the identification, the production, the characterization and the transformation of algae: 

  • laboratories (1,330 m.), 
  • a technological hall (1,000 m.) for the development of industrial preproduction, 
  • means of intervention on the field (remote-detection, cartography), 
  • a ground platform for culture of macro and microalgae, 
  • a sea farm. 

In addition to the provision of technical assistance or research & development for industrials, the CEVA participates to R&D projects of the public collaboration type, on a national, European and world-wide level. 

The various projects of the CEVA are often labeled with the following competitive clusters : Mer Bretagne, Valorial, Trimatec, Fibres, I.A.R, Vegepolys and Axelera.