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Frioul If Express (Shipping company, France)

Last modified: 2010-11-13 by ivan sache
Keywords: frioul if express | groupement des armateurs cotiers marseillais | letters: gacm (white) |
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[Frioul If Express house flag]

House flag of Frioul If Express - Image by Ivan Sache, 18 September 2009

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Presentation of Frioul If Express

Frioul If Express, a local company owned by Veolia Transport, is commissioned by the Marseille Provence Métropole (MPM) Municipality Association to serve the islands of Frioul and If from the Vieux-Port of Marseilles. The company succeeded GACM, which bankrupted in the 2000s.
Since there is a small permanent population on the island of Ratonneau, "territorial continuity" between the islands and mainland should be provided by the relevant authority, here MPM. "Sailing to the islands" is also a popular Sunday's trip in Marseilles.

The archipelago of Frioul is made of the two islands of Ratonneau and Pomègues, of the tiny, inhabited islet of Tiboulen, and of the islet of If. Closing the bay of Marseilles, the main islands were called by Pliny Prote [The Main], Mese [The Median], and Hypea, respectively. The three islands (excluding the marina and village of Port-Frioul) form the Parc maritime des Îles du Frioul (Frioul Islands Sea Park).

Ratoneau, once called Saint-Étienne for a chapel dedicated to St. Stephen known in the 12th century, was the seat of a short-lived kingdom. According to the local tradition, the "King of Ratoneau", an invalid stationed in the island's garrison, reigned over the island for two days in 1765; in his madness, he shot the cannon on his fellows who fished, taking them for invaders threatening his throne.
Pom&egrav;gues, maybe a contraction of Portus Mese Aigues [The Port in the Waters of Mese], also known as Saint-Jean-Baptiste, is called Bramaupant on Aulagnier's map (1780).
Port Frioul, located between the two islands, is said to have been used by Julius Caesar during the siege of Massilia in 49 BC, therefore its name, derived from Fretum Julii. Reused by King of Aragon Alfonso V and King of Spain Charles V when they besieged the town of Marseilles, the port was transformed in the 17th century in a quarantine port for ships coming from Africa and Orient. In 1627, access to the port and islands was officially forbidden. In 1821, an epidemic of yellow fever triggered the revamping of the quarantine system; King Louis XVIII ordered the building of a 300-m long wharf linking Ratoneau and Pomègues, allowing the set up of a bigger and safer port. The lazaret known as Hôpital Caroline was built in 1823-1828.
In 1859-1862, several batteries were built on the island to protect the town of Marseilles. In 1942, the German occupied the islands and built new blockhaus, which were not achieved yet when the Germans capitulated on 29 August 1944.
In 1970, the municipality of Marseilles purchased most of the islands of Frioul from the Ministry of Defense, aiming at creating a new borough on the island. The project was less successful than expected, since there are only 100 permanent inhabitants in the village. Port- Frioul is a popular marina and the islands are visited every year by more than 400,000. The Provence Aquaculture organic fish farm, based in the former Port Pomègues, rears sea breams and basses.

If welcomed in 1516 the Portuguese vessel transporting the rhinoceros offered by King of Portugal Emmanuel I to Pope Leo X. This was the first live rhinoceros to land in Europe since the Roman times; accordingly, King of France François I made a short break in his pilgrimage to Saint-Maximin to visit the animal. So did his court and several people from Marseilles. A few week laters, the ship, sailing to Rome, was lost in the Gulf of Genoa; retrieved ashore, the rhinoceros' body was naturalized and eventually offered to the Pope.
In 1528, François I ordered the building of a fort on the 3-ha islet to protect the town. A square building of 28 m in set, the fort is flanked by three cylindric towers. In 1702, the engineer Vauban added the barracks known as Vaiban barracks. Fort If was mostly used as a state jail, housing famous people such as Knight Anselme, who had plotted against the king and was found strangled to death in his cell in 1580, the revolutionary Mirabeau in 1774, insurgents in 1848, and insurgents of the Commune in 1871.
However, the most famous prisoner of If was Edmond Dantès, aka the Count of Monte-Cristo, jailed at If "upon request" of the writer Alexandre Dumas.
Open to the public in 1890, Fort If was registered as an Historical Monument in 1926 and transferred by the Ministry of Defense to the Ministry of Culture in 1970. During the visit, the cells of Dantès and his friend, the priest Faria, are still shown to the public.

Source: Îles de Marseille website

The three boats operated by Frioul If Express, inaugurated in 2007, are named for famous characters of Marseilles:
- Chevalier Paul, named for Knight Paul (1598-1667). The illegitimate son of a washer-woman and (probably) of Governor of If Paul de Fortia, Paul served the Order of Malta as a warship's captain. His bravery in battles against the Ottoman fleet allowed him to be appointed Knight of Malta in 1637, an appointment very unusual for a bastard. Ennobled in 1649, Paul was appointed Chief of Squad in 1654.
- Edmond Dantès, named for the most famous prisoner of If.
- Henri-Jacques Espérandieu, named for the architect (1829-1874), designer of Palais Longchamp (1862-1869) and of the emblematic Basilica Notre-Dame-de-la-Garde (1864-1869).

Source: Frioul If Express website

Ivan Sache, 18 September 2009

House flag of Frioul If Express

The house flag of Frioul If Express, hoisted over the three boats owned by the company, is white with the company's logo, showing the blue silhouette of a ship with the writing "Frioul If" (above, big letters) and "express" (below, smaller letters), and a yellow sun above blue waves.

Ivan Sache, 18 September 2009

Groupement des Armateurs Côtiers Marseillais

[GACM house flag]

House flag of GACM - Image by Ivan Sache, 2 December 2002

The house flag of the defunct Groupement des Armateurs Côtiers Marseillais is blue with the white letters "G.A.C.M.". The flag was sometimes flown over the company floating headquarters, which were moored in the Vieux-Port of Marseilles.

Ivan Sache, 18 September 2009