Interview: Nadia Laraki

How can the National Port Strategy help strengthen Morocco’s international competitiveness?

NADIA LARAKI: Morocco recently implemented several restructuring projects within the framework of the National Port Strategy (Stratégie Nationale Portuaire, SNP). This strategy constitutes a fundamental plan not only to respond to the evolution of port traffic but to seize new opportunities to further integrate the kingdom into the global economy.

Morocco, strengthened by its geographic location and through the implementation of the SNP, has the ambition to consolidate its position on the international maritime scene as a logistics hub, particularly in the Mediterranean basin. The main pillars of this strategy are the creation of new ports, such as Nador West Med, Kenitra Atlantic, the Port of Safi and Dakhla Atlantic; the extension of current port infrastructure; and the reclassification of certain ports, including Tangier City, Kenitra, the Old Port of Casablanca and Safi Port.

The economic benefits of the kingdom’s ports extend beyond their immediate hinterlands and are felt across all economic sectors of the country. Any gains in competitiveness achieved by our ports have benefits for the entire Moroccan economy. The energy sector, in particular, has benefitted with the doubling of coal traffic capacity at the port of Jorf Lasfar. Other developments currently under way are poised to stimulate economy-wide activity as well. There are two new terminals at the Port of Casablanca: one dedicated to cruise ships and another for containers. A recently commissioned third terminal will see processing capacity increase to 1.6m twenty-foot equivalent units.

In what ways is the private sector expected to contribute to the development of port infrastructure?

LARAKI: The evaluation of costs for the main projects planned within the SNP amounts to Dh75bn ($7.8bn). Public-private partnerships (PPPs) will be used to mobilise financing and optimise public investments. To this end, the establishment of Law 15-02 provides for several forms of PPPs and is expected to encourage private intervention for all kinds of port activities.

The regulatory framework for the port sector encourages PPPs for a number of projects and offers several opportunities to potential investors. Our expectations are particularly high, with some of the world’s top port operators promoting Morocco as a regional centre. By providing efficient services at the lowest cost, we can add value for every user of our ports.

Which technological innovations are set to improve port performance across the kingdom?

LARAKI: In terms of innovation, our ports will be designed to adapt continuously to accommodate and anticipate any and all changes in the maritime industry. This sector has seen major advancements in recent years in areas such as containerisation, ship size, speed and overhauls. These innovations have reverberations on the development of ports and terminals, and result in changes to on-site working conditions, for instance, in the tools and technology used. Ports must therefore constantly adapt in order to remain competitive.

Ports are not immune to the disruption caused by the digital revolution. Responding to this, the National Ports Agency – in coordination with the sector’s stakeholders – has set up a community information system called PortNet. In addition to facilitating the exchange of information between various port actors, PortNet will initiate a comprehensive digital transformation of our ports to adapt to new standards.

Achievements in this area include the digitisation of manifests, enabling electronic payments and more concise appointment scheduling for trucks. These improvements have contributed to boosting Morocco’s ranking in the cross-border trade segment of the World Bank’s 2020 “Doing Business” report. The kingdom’s overall position in the ease of doing business index improved, too, rising seven places to 53rd out of 190 countries.