Cruising in France


Although ultimately a victor in World Wars I and II, France suffered extensive losses in its empire, wealth, manpower, and rank as a dominant nation-state. Nevertheless, France today is one of the most modern countries in the world and is a leader among European nations.

Since 1958, it has constructed a presidential democracy resistant to the instabilities experienced in earlier parliamentary democracies. In recent years, its reconciliation and cooperation with Germany have proved central to the economic integration of Europe, including the introduction of a common exchange currency, the euro, in January 1999. At present, France is at the forefront of efforts to develop the EU's military capabilities to supplement progress toward an EU foreign policy.

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Location: Western Europe, bordering the Bay of Biscay and English Channel, between Belgium and Spain, southeast of the UK; bordering the Mediterranean Sea, between Italy and Spain
Geographic coordinates: 46 00 N, 2 00 E
Map references: Europe
Area: total: 547,030 sq km
land: 545,630 sq km
water: 1,400 sq km
note: includes only metropolitan France; excludes the overseas administrative divisions


3,427 km

Maritime claims

Territorial sea: 12 nm
Contiguous zone: 24 nm
Exclusive economic zone: 200 nm (does not apply to the Mediterranean)
Continental shelf: 200-m depth or to the depth of exploitation


Generally cool winters and mild summers, but mild winters and hot summers along the Mediterranean; occasional strong, cold, dry, north-to-northwesterly wind known as mistral


Mostly flat plains or gently rolling hills in north and west; remainder is mountainous, especially Pyrenees in south, Alps in east

Elevation extremes

Lowest point: Rhone River delta -2 m
Highest point: Mont Blanc 4,807 m


France is in the midst of transition from a well-to-do modern economy that has featured extensive government ownership and intervention to one that relies more on market mechanisms. The government has partially or fully privatized many large companies, banks, and insurers. It retains controlling stakes in several leading firms, including Air France, France Telecom, Renault, and Thales, and is dominant in some sectors, particularly power, public transport, and defense industries.

The telecommunications sector is gradually being opened to competition. France's leaders remain committed to a capitalism in which they maintain social equity by means of laws, tax policies, and social spending that reduce income disparity and the impact of free markets on public health and welfare. The government has lowered income taxes and introduced measures to boost employment and reform the pension system.

In addition, it is focusing on the problems of the high cost of labor and labor market inflexibility resulting from the 35-hour workweek and restrictions on lay-offs. The tax burden remains one of the highest in Europe (nearly 50% of GDP in 2005). The lingering economic slowdown and inflexible budget items have pushed the budget deficit above the eurozone's 3%-of-GDP limit; unemployment stands at 10%.


Airports: 479 (2005)
Airports - with paved runways: total: 288
Airports - with unpaved runways: total: 191
Heliports: 3 (2005)
Pipelines: gas 14,232 km; oil 3,024 km; refined products 4,889 km (2004)
Railways: total: 29,519 km
Roadways: total: 891,290 km


8,500 km (1,686 km accessible to craft of 3,000 metric tons) (2000)

Merchant marine

Total: 54 ships (1000 GRT or over) 1,050,735 GRT/600,979 DWT
By type: cargo 4, chemical tanker 6, container 1, liquefied gas 3, passenger 3, passenger/cargo 29, petroleum tanker 7, roll on/roll off 1
Foreign-owned: 4 (Sweden 3, Turkey 1)
Registered in other countries: 151 (Australia 3, The Bahamas 28, Belgium 2, Bermuda 1, Cambodia 1, Cameroon 1, Canada 1, Republic of the Congo 1, French Polynesia 1, French Southern and Antarctic Lands 45, Gibraltar 1, Hong Kong 3, Indonesia 1, Isle of Man 2, Italy 3, South Korea 12, Liberia 3, Luxembourg 9, Malta 8, Mexico 1, Morocco 1, Panama 8, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines 8, UK 3, Wallis and Futuna 4) (2005)

Sailing Specifics: Ports and terminals

Bordeaux, Calais, Dunkerque, La Pallice, Le Havre, Marseille, Nantes, Paris, Rouen, Strasbourg


Madagascar claims the French territories of Bassas da India, Europa Island, Glorioso Islands, and Juan de Nova Island; Comoros claims Mayotte; Mauritius claims Tromelin Island; territorial dispute between Suriname and the French overseas department of French Guiana; France asserts a territorial claim in Antarctica (Adelie Land); France and Vanuatu claim Matthew and Hunter Islands, east of New Caledonia

Other Sailing Destinations in the Region

Albania - Algeria - Bulgaria - Croatia - Cyprus - Egypt - France - Georgia - Gibraltar - Greece - Israel - Italy - Lebanon - Libya - Malta - Monaco - Morocco - Romania - Serbia and Montenegro - Slovenia - Spain - Syria - Tunisia - Turkey - Ukraine

Further Reading

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