Sea route shortcut.
Transport Magazine

Sea route shortcut.

La Réunion has a huge infrastructure problem.
A new bridge is set to change that.

A volcano, tropical forests and surrounded by the Indian Ocean: The Île de La Réunion is a holiday paradise. However, the infrastructure poses major challenges for logistics service providers like Jimmy Soucramanien. Hope now rests on a motorway in the sea.

“Plan an extra half hour tomorrow morning,” says Jimmy Soucramanien, saying goodbye to the Transport team on the first evening on the island. An extra half hour? The hotel is only five kilometres away! In the morning, on the way to the 48‑year‑old entrepreneur’s freight forwarding company, the reason becomes clear: On the coastal road around Saint‑Denis, the capital of the Île de La Réunion, the maximum speed has already been reached at walking pace.

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Trucks as a passion: Jimmy Soucramanien, Managing Director of JS Transports.

“This is everyday life for us,” says Jimmy Soucramanien and smiles modestly. He maintains a fleet of 12 Mercedes‑Benz vehicles. His company covers pretty much every transport requirement on the island. Some of his fleet drive consignments on behalf of the postal service, while other trucks pull trailers with food and drinks for large supermarket chains. Among the other goods that are transported are building materials and bulk goods. Jimmy Soucramanien has just added a new moving floor trailer to the fleet for transporting recyclable waste.

The routes of the trucks reflect the variety of loads: Jimmy Soucramanien’s drivers drive to all of the locations on the island that can be reached by truck. “Traffic is always a major issue,” says the businessman.

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The “Route des Tamarins”.

The 34-kilometre-long motorway “Route des Tamarins” is another infrastructure project on Reunion that is intended to relieve the old coastal road. Four viaducts several hundred metres long have to withstand tropical cyclones with high wind speeds. The road is named after the tamarind, a legume typical of the island.

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The Piton de la Fournaise.

The Piton de la Fournaise is the last active volcano on La Réunion – and at the same time one of the most active volcanoes on earth. In 2019 alone, it erupted five times.

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The Notre-Dame-des-Laves.

The name says it all: Saint-Rose is home to a church that was surrounded by lava during an eruption of the Piton de la Fournaise volcano in 1977 and yet survived without damage.

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Salazie basin.

The densely-forested basin of Salazie can only be reached by a small road from the north-east. Like large parts of the island, it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

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Sugar cane.

The number one agricultural product on the island is sugar cane. It can be found everywhere on the island and is used for the production of cane sugar, as a raw material for rum or simply made into juice to be sold by the roadside.

“Island of the Meeting” is the literal translation of the French overseas department in the middle of the Indian Ocean. The island was uninhabited until the 17th century, when it was settled by French settlers. Over the centuries, inhabitants of all continents and various ethnicities have joined them. This diversity and, above all, the peaceful coexistence of the island’s inhabitants are defining aspects of its collective identity, and for Jimmy Soucramanien, these are aspects that make life on the island so worthwhile.

La Réunion – a piece of Europe in the Indian Ocean.

The Île de La Réunion lies 2,000 kilometres off the African continent in the middle of the Indian Ocean. Around 200 kilometres of coastline, mountains and an active volcano make the island a popular tourist destination. Visitors are particularly fascinated by the contrast between the coastline and inland. Around 40 per cent of the island – more than 100,000 hectares – became a World Heritage Site in 2010. As a French overseas department, the Île de La Réunion is part of the European Union and the euro is the official currency. A curious situation resulted when the currency was introduced whereby the time lead of three hours compared to Central European Time meant that the island was the first point in the world where it was officially possible to pay with the euro on 1 January 2002.

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A tractor loaded with sugar cane. Sugar cane is the number one agricultural product on La Réunion.

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Traffic jams are a daily occurrence on all roads on the island.

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Traffic is a major issue for truckers in particular.

Almost a third of the 855,000 inhabitants have settled in the north‑west of the volcanic island. The coastal road between the cities of Saint‑Denis and Saint‑Paul is a real bottleneck. “Le Port” – the island’s most important port – lies between the two cities and is Réunion’s gateway to the world. The goods that arrive here need to be distributed. And that’s not always easy – especially now during the sugar cane harvest, when countless tractors are added to the normal volume of traffic.

To combat the traffic chaos, Jimmy Soucramanien is relying on a decentralised stationing of his trucks. He has positioned his vehicles throughout the island so that they are as close as possible to the most common areas of use. “We try to keep the distances as short as possible.” Another recipe for success: Drivers he can rely on and a powerful fleet of trucks that will make his people happy.

The logistics entrepreneur’s hopes also rest on a mighty structure that is rising up next to the coastal road. It is the most expensive motorway project in French history: the Nouvelle Route du Littoral.

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“The new route will make traffic significantly safer.”

Jimmy Soucramanien, Managing Director of JS Transports
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Anticipation: Driver Gerald Victoire already passes the new coastal road on his journeys – but it is not open yet.

Gerald Victoire is among those who are really looking forward to the new connection. He has been one of Jimmy Soucramanien’s drivers for 12 years. “On the coastal road, we must always expect rockfalls or excessive waves, and the Nouvelle Route du Littoral will protect us from this in the future,” says the 46‑year‑old, while the Active Drive Assist will allow the Actros 1863 Ultimate Racing Edition to roll along slowly but surely.

The route is clear, a slight breeze is blowing from the sea, and the ocean is calm. It is hard to imagine that the section is closed for around 30 days a year for safety reasons. “This means that the most important supply route for heavy‑duty transport is closed, and there is no alternative through the highlands,” says Gerald Victoire.

Jimmy Soucramanien also hopes the project will be completed as quickly as possible, and is convinced that: “The new coastal road will make traffic significantly safer”.

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Old and new: The future bridge construction runs parallel to the coastline.

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Free for a change: The old coastal road is closed for more than 30 days a year due to flooding or rockfalls.

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Beacon of hope: On the new road, traffic should be able to flow safe from rockfalls and waves.

 

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Truck lovers: Jimmy Soucramanien with brother Ludovic (centre) and son Enzo.

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Jimmy Soucramanien began his career in the mid 1990s as a driver of a tipper semitrailer. Not by chance: “My father Lucien founded a transport company in 1966. My brothers and I are proud to continue this tradition.” Jimmy Soucramanien’s passion for trucks has never left him over the years and anyone who speaks to him can sense that immediately. He always configures his trucks himself, and when the opportunity arises for an exclusive special model, the entrepreneur seizes it – as was the case recently with the Actros Ultimate Racing Edition.

Jimmy Soucramanien also travels the world for his passion. He has visited the Mercedes‑Benz plant in Wörth four times and countless trade fairs in continental Europe – not bad considering they are at least an 11‑hour flight away. Such enthusiasm is contagious: His 13‑year‑old son Enzo can sometimes be found behind the wheel in the company courtyard, with the same twinkle in his eyes as his father.

Ultimate Racing Editon:
one of 50 – and also one of two.

When Jimmy Soucramanien orders a new truck, he pays attention to the details. The diligence starts with the metallic paint, and the equipment leaves nothing to be desired in the final result. One highlight of the fleet is the Actros Ultimate Racing Edition, a limited‑edition special model for the French market, which features eye‑catching paintwork in the AMG Petronas colour scheme and an elegant leather interior. As a side note: Of the 50 in existence, two are on the roads of La Réunion.

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Racing: The colour scheme of the special model is based on the AMG Petronas racing team.

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Racing: The colour scheme of the special model is based on the AMG Petronas racing team.

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Racing: The colour scheme of the special model is based on the AMG Petronas racing team.

 

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Racing: The colour scheme of the special model is based on the AMG Petronas racing team.

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Racing: The colour scheme of the special model is based on the AMG Petronas racing team.

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Racing: The colour scheme of the special model is based on the AMG Petronas racing team.

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Racing: The colour scheme of the special model is based on the AMG Petronas racing team.

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Photos:
Alexander Tempel
© Adobe Stock – aylerein
© iStock – aymeric bein 
© Adobe Stock – Animaflora PicsStock

Video:
Alexander Tempel
“Earth zoom clip Reunion” © Adobe Stock / radresnac