Interview: Sami Battikh

How are the various maritime infrastructure projects in Tunisia progressing?

SAMI BATTIKH: There are two major maritime infrastructure projects in the pipeline in Tunisia, which are the enlargement of the port of Sfax and the construction of a deep-water port in Enfidha.

Project studies for the enlargement of the port of Sfax are in their third phase. Plans are also under way to build a new container terminal with a vessel draught of 14 metres. This project takes into account that a deep-water port will be built in Enfidha and that traffic is growing by 4% per year. However, the major challenge for this vision will be to reconcile the enlargement of the port of Sfax with the Sfax Taparura project, which is aimed at rehabilitating beaches and creating 420 ha of land to expand the metropolitan area. For the deep-water port project in Enfidha, the Tunisian state, through the OMMP, will provide finance for infrastructure such as gates, dredging and protection works, which constitute around 60% of the project’s total costs.

This project will open a door to African countries and will be a great boost for the Tunisian economy. New port infrastructure will allow the port to receive fourth-generation boats of 18,000 containers with vessel draughts of 16-18 metres. The total size of the Enfidha project, including the port, the airport and logistics activity area, is around 3000 ha. The Enfidha project must be realised in three phases, with the first phase costing around €630m and the total cost estimated at €1.4bn. This project will improve the quality of the logistics chain and stimulate foreign investment. It will also give the opportunity for Tunisian companies to expand into new markets, not only in North African countries, but also in sub-Saharan African countries. This new port also gives the opportunity for road transportation to be further developed through linking the Tunisian Highway to the Trans-Saharan Highway that connects Algiers to Lagos.

How will the opening of Tanger-Med II in 2016 impact the Tunisian maritime industry?

BATTIKH: The Tanger Med port has taken market share in West Africa, but this does not prevent Tunisian ports from being upgraded and playing a major role when it comes to European and West African countries. The success of Tunisian ports will depend on the creation of industrial areas behind the port and on the participation of major foreign investors.

From a maritime viewpoint, how can more synergy be created between North African countries?

BATTIKH: North African countries must better consider the opportunities that exist to expand on all forms of transport networks across the region. The construction of new long-distance roads with high standards is necessary to facilitate international transportation between Tunisia, Morocco and Algeria. Implementing better road infrastructure between these countries would improve the efficiency of the maritime sector, create more synergy between transport operators and concentrate the stocks in more appropriate logistics sites.

Which measures are being taken to increase the attractiveness of the Tunisian maritime sector?

BATTIKH: Efforts have been made to increase attractiveness and competitiveness through increasing investment, reorganising port traffic and improving the regulation of ports. Measures have also been taken to encourage build-operate-transfer financing, especially in infrastructure. Some ports have recently installed scanners, third-generation gantry cranes and video surveillance. Going forward, to improve Tunisian port infrastructure performance and efficiency, there is a need to increase the rate of machine availability to 70%, to speed up Customs procedures and to allow port operators to electronically process their transport formalities through a one-stop shop.