Econostrum | Economic News in the Mediterranean



Profitability of Ro-Ro lines declines in Algeria



Foreign shipowners complain about dire waiting times in the port of Mostaganem, which has led to a significant fall in cargo volumes imported by Ro-Ro. Even though the average wait at the port of Oran is 4 hours, the specialisation of Algerian ports is a problem for foreign operators.

M'hamed Boutouil, general director port of Oran (photo F.Dubessy)
M'hamed Boutouil, general director port of Oran (photo F.Dubessy)
ALGERIA. Algeria carries out 95% of its economic trade by sea. In recent years, the port of Oran has strengthened its activities in container transportation while Mostaganem port has replicated these efforts in Ro-Ro ferries. These western Algerian ports represent 20% of non-hydrocarbon Algerian maritime traffic.

The port of Oran is mainly served by vessels from Alicante in Spain and Marseille and Sète in France. These harbours on the northern shores of the Mediterranean account for all of the European maritime ferry transport towards the ports of Oran and Mostagenem.

CMA, CNAN and Marfret all provide a regular link between the French ports and Oran and Mostagenem, with AACM providing the service from Alicante. Car ferries carrying passengers as well as road haulage also factor. In particular, the Alicante-Oran line carries frozen products. This ferry activity complements the cargo ships operated by shipowners Sloman and Brointermed.
As explained by M'hamed Boutouil, CEO of the port of Oran corporation (EPO): "
The port of Oran has four Ro-Ro ramps and it therefore represents a specialist platform for berthing Ro-Ro vessels." In addition to these four ramps, the EPO has 7 basins, 24 wharves and 33 berths including 7 specialised berths with 7.5 to 12 m draught.

Since 15 January 2014, Marfret has abandoned its Marseille-Algiers-Mostaganem link in favour of the Marseille-Oran-Mostaganem line. Prior to that the company transported rolling stock to Algiers and Mostaganem. It now offers a rolling service to Mostaganem and Oran and a container service to Oran.

Numerous challenges

Mostaganem port (photo Sogeports)
Mostaganem port (photo Sogeports)
In Oran, Ro-Ro shipping and general cargo traffic is sometimes disrupted by waiting times but  “in 2013 the average waiting time in harbour was 4 hours” according to M'hamed Boutouil, CEO of the Port of Oran.

This would not seem to be the case of the port of Mostaganem, which is criticised by some foreign shipowners who complain about dire waiting times. They cite a 'phenomenal fall' in the volume of goods transported by Ro-Ro.

They explain that trailers are an effective logistical tool if accompanied by a steady flow through the port. However they think that, "
cumbersome administration " slows the transport of goods and causes extortionate capital costs for container demurrage, which is the charge payable to ship owners for capital costs before unloading. Industry players are therefore moving from trailer traffic to container transport.

The aging infrastructure of the port of Mostaganem is another important issue for shipowners. It results in congestion because the wharves are not suited to the growth of traffic caused by the specialisation of Algerian ports and the increase in imports over recent years.

Weather conditions do not allow for safe docking. Added to this is the lack of protection. The slightest wind or swell leads the authorities to close the port during which time ships cannot enter or exit.

Another problem raised by shipowners is the specialisation of Algerian ports resulting in longer turn-around times and additional fees for dealers, which are mainly based in Algiers.
These same shipowners also complain about the priority given to Algerian ships, with waiting times in the harbour often increased by the unscheduled arrival of CNAN vessels.

Container transport rising

Certain shipowners think that the Ro-Ro lines to Algeria are not profitable. Yet Ro-Ro traffic at the port of Algiers increased by 15% in November 2013 compared with November 2012. This growth was confirmed in December 2013 with a rate of 9.28% compared with December 2012.

The decline of the Ro-Ro lines could be offset by the development of container transportation, a sector that is experiencing strong growth.

International port operators already manage the container ports of Béjaïa (Portek), Algiers and Djen Djen (Dubai Ports World).

In Oran, the wharf dedicated to container unloading covered 12 hectares at the end of 2013. The CEO of EPO noted then that containers were "
taking over the whole port, which is not normal. They should receive uniform treatment within self-contained terminals."

2014 sees the launch of the extension of the port of Oran costing €98 million. Following this work, which should take 36 months, a new container wharf will be unveiled covering an area of 23.4 hectares.

A third container wharf of 30.2 hectares is planned. The Renault plant at Oued Tlelat, which is due to start production in late 2014, is located 30 kilometers from Oran.

Special issue : Market 14

Special issue in partnership with Shippax

Amal Belkessam, ALGIERS

Friday, May 23rd 2014

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