Econostrum | Economic News in the Mediterranean



Marseille-Tangier: «Maybe next autumn»



Marc Grolleau, CEO of Transcargo, which operates in Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia, and chairman of the AFTRI (French International Road Transport Association), is fighting for the creation of a Ro-Ro link between Marseille and the Moroccan port of Tangier, a project that for him “spells the future”.

Marc Grolleau, CEO of Transcargo (photo AFTR)
Marc Grolleau, CEO of Transcargo (photo AFTR) What is the situation with regard to the Ro-Ro service between Marseille and Morocco?

Marc Grolleau: Even fifteen years ago, the port of Marseille was at the heart of relations between France and Morocco, or even between Europe and Morocco, particularly in relation to road haulage. But gradually transport has changed and lorries now take the overland route via Spain, in particular due to problems, such as repeated strikes, at the port of Marseille. For carriers today, it is more reliable and cost-effective to cross France and Spain by road than to board a ship in Marseille.  

Can we go back? : It is not a question of looking back. I firmly believe that sea transport is the future, for economic, social and environmental reasons. Between the port of Marseille, which is a great facility, and Tangier, Morocco's true Ro-Ro port, there is potential in terms of traffic volume. But firstly we must lift certain barriers.  

What are they?

There are three main barriers to success here. Service quality, the cost of the crossing and the port of Marseille's image. With regard to service quality, we need twice-weekly round trips, in the middle and at the end of the week, provided exclusively by fast ships capable of holding a minimum speed of 21 knots. On pricing, we need attractive rates that take into account the load factor as well as better checks on the competition, because Moroccan lorries violate European rules almost systematically. Finally, a communications campaign can and must erase the outdated bad reputation of the port of Marseille.

Calling on European funds

As it stands what is the situation with the Ro-Ro line between Marseille and Tangier?

For the moment, nobody from either the ferry operators or the transport companies wants to take the first step. The first group are waiting for firm orders from the second but transport companies are playing a "wait and see" strategy so that they can test the service before committing to it.  

How do you end the stalemate?

We need the parties to talk and agree on intelligent arrangements. Above all though, we need the start-up period to be funded, for instance by European funds.  

What can we hope for in terms of the timeline?

Currently, three companies (two Italian and one Spanish) are interested. If all goes well and we progress quickly, the service could start next autumn. But I’m confident - this project spells the future.  

Special issue : Market 14

Special issue in partnership with Shippax

Mathieu Bouchard

Friday, May 23rd 2014

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