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The Port of Marseille is located on the southern coast of France. Situated on Rade de Marseille (Roadstead of Marseille) on the east and northeast side of the Gulf of Marseille (Golfe de Marseille), the port extends about 3 3/4 mi along the coast between Pointe de Mouripiane and Pointe du Pharo. It is composed of a series of basins which are sheltered from seaward by a 30 ft high breakwater.
Sixth Fleet ports of call are also located throughout the Mediterranean Sea. Ship visits ensure continued access to essential bases and infrastructure. Engagement capitalizes on naval strengths of mobility and sustainability, using the inherent prestige of U.S. flagged warships. Formative engagement is further enhanced by incorporating the full range of naval assets -- including Seabees, the chaplaincy, the Judge Advocate General corps, and civil affairs units -- during port visits.
Of primary interest is the northern part of the port, Nouveau Port, comprised of Avant Port Nord at the northern entrance, and the following basins: Bassin Mirabeau, Bassin Leon Gourret (Darse Sud), Bassin du President Wilson, Bassin de la Pinde, Bassin National, and Bassin de la Gare Maritime.
Prominent landmarks from seaward include several mountains. The 3,182 ft rounded summit of Mont Sainte Victoire, located about 16 mi northeast of Marseille and the 2,392 ft summit of Pilon du Roi, located about 7 mi northeast of the port, may be distinguished when about 40 n mi offshore. The summit of Pilon du Roi resembles a thumb or truncated cone, slightly rounded at the summit. Other summits east of Marseille may also be seen.
The Port of Marseille is essentially surrounded by terrain or man-made structures. The northeast side of the port is protected by the French land mass, while the southwest side of the elongated port is defined by a long breakwater which extends the length of the port.
The Gulf of Marseille is bordered by the French landmass from northwest clockwise through southeast. Due to the topography of the region, however, it is only partially shielded from the effects of winds emanating from the eastern semicircle.
Marseille is located in the Rhone Delta at the south end of the Rhone Valley, a long north-south rift between the Cevenees Mountains and the foothills of the French Alps. Cold, dry Mistral winds funnel southward through the valley and reach the Port of Marseille as northwesterly, commonly reaching force 5 (17-21 kt). Gale force (force 8, 34-40 kt) is not uncommon, and force 11 (56-63 kt) is occasionally experienced. The northwest-southeast orientation of most of the quays in the port mitigates the effect of the Mistral on vessels moored therein.
The fetch length is limited to about 3 n mi, but wind waves of 6 to 8 ft can be raised outside the breakwater. The Gulf of Marseille is open to winds and seas from the southwest quadrant, but the port is protected from south- westerly waves by a long, 30 ft high breakwater that extends the length of the inner harbor. The anchorage is in an unprotected location outside the breakwater southwest of Mole Leon Gourret. Bottom type and holding qualities are not specified.
With a population of more than one-million, Marseille is France's second-largest city. As capital of the Provence-Côte d'Azur region, and with its busy international seaport (France's largest), Marseille has emerged as a very active administrative and economic center. It was once known as the "Gateway to the Orient," although these days, it is very much a "gateway to the world." A melting pot of colors and races blend together in this picturesque and always alive French city.
Marseille was founded by the Greeks in 600 BC and immediately built a reputation as a dark and dangerous seaport town. That reputation remains and there are parts of town which should not be visited after dark. La Canebière, the main artery, and its adjoining streets, are a prime example. During the day, they're well-traveled, safe and offer intriguing and inexpensive places to shop and eat. At night, however, the crowds leave and it's best to use caution.
That warning out of the way, the Vex Port (Old Port) of Marseille is a fascinating, fun place to spend a liberty. There is a wide range of things to see, from the colorful, hectic daily fish market, to the charming old quarters, to the golden beaches and the excitement of exotic nightclubs. It's definitely a city worthy of closer inspection.
At the heart of Marseille is the Newport, dominated by the immense forts of St. Jean and St. Nicholas and watched over by the picturesque old quarters that cling to the surrounding hillside. High up on the hill, you'll see the breathtaking 19th Century Basilica of Notre Dame de la Garde, topped by her golden statue.
From a geographic standpoint, the main street that runs directly out of the old port, cutting through the very center of the city is La Canebière. In and around this part of Marseille are many of the city's historical ties -the Greek/Roman periods, the Middle Ages and the pre-Revolution days all have left lasting traces.
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