The port of Rouen has long been an important one for the grain and meal trade.
There are documents attesting to wheat imports from England dating back to the twelfth century. In the early fifteenth century, there was extensive grain traffic through the port. In 1410, the inhabitants of Rouen forced Michel Bertrand from Brittany to sell the cargo of wheat he was bringing from Paris. Excise records mention Vexin wheat exported to Holland, Le Neubourg wheat heading for Brittany, Flanders, and Scotland, and even wheat bound for Portugal and Genoa.
This traffic has continued through to the modern era and contemporary times.
Before the Second World War, the statistics were very erratic, due to variations in the harvests. In the early twentieth century, they corresponded to around 100,000 tonnes per year. During crisis periods, they rose to over 300,000 tonnes, for example between 1910 and 1913.
This traffic increased in volume after the Second World War. The port of Rouen is ideally situated at the end of the estuary; its hinterland is home to the largest grain-growing areas in the country (Beauce, Brie, Orléanais), and it lies at the crossroads of four major means of transport for heavy goods: the sea, inland waterways, railways, and roads.
By 1960, the port was already shipping 380,000 tonnes of grain, and importing 80,000 tonnes.
It became necessary to build infrastructure to stock it all between handling operations.
In 1957, France was a net importer of wheat, while Eure-et-Loir had a wheat production surplus with no waterways to export it. In 1957, the representatives of 20 cooperatives came together to create UCACEL (Union des Coopératives Agricoles de Céréales d’Eure-et-Loir) with a view to building and managing a silo for the département in Chartres. Export considerations required it to be close to a waterway, which was not the case for the capital of the Beauce region. After looking at several sites (Rouen, le Havre, Dieppe, Mantes, Vernon, and Montargis), it was clear that the port of Rouen was the most appropriate.
SPR (Sica des Silos Portuaires de Rouen) had been founded in 1958, bringing together the consular chambers and nine cooperatives in the region of Normandy.
In 1961, the two organisations decided to build two silos on the same site, as well as leave room for future extensions. The Elie peninsula, located between the Seine and what was still known as the Oil Basin, was chosen for the site.
SPR and UCACEL merged in 2002, forming a single organisation known as Sénalia.
Another set of silos was built in Grand-Couronne, as well as Robust, a sugar terminal.
The Elie peninsula
The first silo built on the Elie peninsula comprised two groups of 18 units, either side of a 55-metre high central tower. In 1967, the number of units was doubled, taking the capacity of the silo to 30,000 tonnes. Silo 2 was commissioned in 1976; gradually (with silo 3 in 1985 and silo 4 in 1990) the storage capacity was increased to 250,000 tonnes.
In 1982, UCACEL gained control of Magasins de Rouen Maritime (MRM), which operated a grain terminal in Grand-Couronne (silo 4). The following year, it built an additional silo behind this terminal (silo 3). New storage capacity was added to this infrastructure in 1984 (65,000 tonnes, then another 35,000 tonnes) and in 1986 (70,000 tonnes).
In 1993, silo 5 was commissioned by UCACEL, in a move to diversify. Silo 5 was commissioned to handle rapeseed for the Saipol crushing plant.
In 1996, silo 6 (built in 1992 for operations) was assigned to the storage and handling of cocoa beans.
In 1994, UCACEL and Saint-Louis Sucre decided to locate a large terminal in Rouen for sugar exports, known as Robust. It was commissioned in 1996.
This 60,000-tonne single-unit silo is located upstream from the Elie peninsula silos, on Quai du Bassin aux Bois.