Morocco has 27 commercial ports that see a combined annual traffic of 92.3m tonnes in goods. The kingdom’s 2030 National Port Strategy, spearheaded by the National Ports Agency (Agence Nationale des Ports, ANP), allocates investment of close to $7.5bn to expand and upgrade the country’s ports along the Atlantic and Mediterranean coasts. The ANP will oversee the management and development of all ports, expect for Tanger-Med, whose renovations will be administered by the Tanger Med Port Authority (TMPA). “The Moroccan port landscape is evolving to better integrate regional economies and increase the role of the private sector in specific development strategies,” Sghir El Filali, the director of strategy and regulation at the ANP, told OBG.
Since a 2007 restructuring of its port management operations, the ANP has worked to designate land for infrastructure development and increase private sector involvement in port management. The restructuring also unified pricing across ports, introduced upskilling programmes to bring staff training up to international standards and defined overall strategic development plans. Efforts so far have led to increased productivity and reduced shipment delays, shortening the average time a container is parked at a port from 10 days in 2017 to 6.5 days in 2019. “The ANP is working to transform Moroccan ports from areas for just importing and exporting into real economic centres driving the development of their surroundings,” El Filali told OBG.
With the future trade landscape and shipment volumes in mind, the ANP has projected port capacity will need to reach 300m tonnes per annum in 2030 to keep up with demand, from its current capacity of 40m tonnes as of the end of 2019. Investments worth Dh6bn ($625.1m) have been planned to this end, with Dh2.7bn ($281.3m) already spent in 2018, and another Dh3.2bn ($333.4m) earmarked for further infrastructure development and upgrades by 2020.
Morocco’s Tanger-Med was the first African port to be awarded EcoPort status by the European Sea Ports Organisation, following a previous ISO 14001 certification for its environmental management. Beyond port and trans-shipment activities, the TMPA oversees the Tanger Free Zone, Tanger Automotive City, Tétouan Park and Tétouan Shore for outsourcing activities, a Logistics Free Zone and Renault Tanger-Med. At end-2019 there were around 900 companies operating within Tanger-Med, with combined investments nearing Dh100bn ($10.4bn), of which more than half came from private actors.
Tanger-Med 1 comprises two container terminals with a total capacity of 3.5m twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs), in addition to a railway terminal, a hydrocarbons terminal, a goods terminal and a car terminal. “When we envisioned Tanger-Med, we did not expect to have such significant traffic,” Mostafa Al Mouzani, the former director of TMPA, told OBG. “So when we decided to build Tanger-Med 2 and Nador West Med, we took into account future volumes.” Following an investment of Dh14bn ($1.5bn), Tanger-Med 2 opened in June 2019 with two container terminals and a total capacity of 6m TEUs. As of January 2020 Tanger-Med covered 1000 ha, offered a capacity of 9m TEUs and was one of the largest port hubs in the Mediterranean and the Atlantic Ocean. Tanger-Med provides end-to-end logistics services for goods and is connected to 186 ports, including 38 in Africa. In 2018 the port saw Dh30bn ($625.1m) in revenue.
The success of Tanger-Med has led other ports in the country to adopt similar development models. “Tanger-Med was a leap forward for trans-shipment activities in Morocco, having introduced innovations like twin-lift handling and reduced the operating time of its containers from 20-30 moves per hour (mph) to 40 mph within three years,” Al Mouzani added. Additionally, innovations throughout the port have led to shorter connection times between the kingdom and Asia, dropping on average from 60 to 25 days.
To unleash the full potential of Tanger-Med, the country needs to further tap into the port’s wider import-export potential. The Moroccan National Railways Office (Office National des Chemins de Fer, ONCF) currently connects inland industrial zones with Tanger-Med 1 by rail, but capacity may soon be reached. Increasing development in Tangier is also making land availability an issue; the city’s population doubled over 2003-12, creating new transportation challenges in residential and economic areas.
Nador West Med
About 400 km east of Tanger-Med, the port of Nador West Med, expected to come on-line in 2021, is set to increase regional market opportunities, play a major role in the kingdom’s energy strategy and reduce the burden on Tanger-Med. The port’s management will be split between the ANP and the TMPA, at 51% and 49%, respectively. In 2018 a consortium consisting of SGTM Maroc, Luxembourg-based Jan De Nul Group and Turkish STFA Group won the bid for the construction of the new port, expected to cost around Dh7.6bn ($791.8m). Once completed, the port will be able to process 25m tonnes of hydrocarbons, 7m tonnes of coal and 3m tonnes of general cargo. In terms of trans-shipment capabilities, the port will have a capacity of 3m TEUs, with the potential to add another 2m TEUs.
The southern city of Dakhla is also expecting to see the construction of a new port. A call for tenders went out in December 2019, and construction is expected to start in the second half of 2020. Among those vying for the 60-ha, Dh10.2bn ($1.1bn) project are Morocco’s Somagec, France’s Eiffage and Greece’s Archirodon. The port is expected to act as a hub for West Africa, and will have connections to Casablanca, Tanger-Med and Las Palmas in Spain. Dakhla Atlantic Port is expected to boost the regional fisheries, agriculture, mining, energy and tourism trade sectors, eventually building capacity to process an estimated 2.2m tonnes of goods per year.
With more highways and railways being constructed throughout the kingdom, its ports have seen significant reductions in congestion and more goods arriving as scheduled. In January 2020 there were three dry ports in the country – in Casablanca, Fes and Marrakech – with four more planned throughout Morocco’s northern region. In 2019, the ANP acquired 146 ha of land for a planned a 200-ha dry port at Zenata, at a cost of Dh700m ($72.9m).
The country’s first blueprint for digitisation, Digital Morocco 2013, saw the creation of PortNet. Under the direction of the ANP, PortNet has led the charge in digitising all clearance processes at the kingdom’s entry points. Since 2011, PortNet has gradually been rolled out at ports across the country, significantly increasing logistics productivity. By the second quarter of 2020 the operation of several port activities were planned to be externalised to private companies, with the goal of easing traffic at entry points. “The digitisation of documents and processes has helped reduce logistics costs and accelerated trade flow, especially around Gibraltar,” Alexis Rhodas, the general manager of local logistics company GEFCO Maroc, told OBG. In 2019, PortNet partnered with Royal Air Maroc to create E-Freight, a platform that extends electronic clearance to cargo arriving by air.
The modernisation of Moroccan ports has enhanced the nation’s logistics sector through increased cooperation with private actors to boost efficiency across the value chain. The country has gained experience working with global operators and has emerged as a training centre for both Morocco’s and Africa’s workforces. Anticipated increases in trade volumes are going to require more investment to better connect inland economic regions with international markets and to unleash the full potential of Morocco’s new and burgeoning industrial zones.
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