Econostrum | Economic News in the Mediterranean

Tanger Med redraws the map

Written by Julie Chaudier, CASABLANCA on Friday, May 23rd 2014 à 16:41 | Read 1697 times



The building of the Tanger Med port might seem to have had little impact on ferry traffic to Morocco. However, even if the number of vessels passing through the new facility remains limited, the port's potential for Ro-Ro traffic competes with the port of Casablanca.

The Renault Melloussa plant produced 93,700 cars in 2013, which were exported via Tanger Med (photo Renault)
The Renault Melloussa plant produced 93,700 cars in 2013, which were exported via Tanger Med (photo Renault)
MOROCCO. While container traffic at Tanger Med has been booming since the launch of the new port in 2008, Ro-Ro freight is far from reaching maximum capacity. Despite its modest aims, the port could slowly redraw the map of trade routes to Morocco.

Opened in 2010, the Ro-Ro terminal has seen 198,000 lorries on RoPax ferries in 2013, compared with 180,000 in 2012, an increase of 10% giving a maximum capacity of 2 million vehicles a year. Over the same period, container traffic jumped by 36%. "Growth in Ro-Ro traffic between France and North Africa is almost zero when compared with other means of transport such as the container", reveals Grégory Fourcin, Deputy Vice-President of the North Africa lines of CMA CGM group.

However, if you count exports from Renault Tangier in the Ro-Ro traffic, the situation changes significantly. The Renault factory in Melloussa near Tangier exported almost as many vehicles in 2013 as passed through Tanger Med on RoPax ferries in the same period. "In 2013, we exported 93,700 vehicles from the Renault Melloussa plant, 35,000 from the Somaca factory near Casablanca, and 20,000 imported cars to be marketed via Tanger Med", recalls Alain Joyeux, logistics director for Renault Morocco.

Between 2012 and 2013, Ro-Ro traffic at Tanger Med, including Renault cars, has thereby increased by up to 25%.

Casablanca, gate of entry to Morocco

Cars from Renault factory awaiting loading at Tanger Med (photo G.Tur)
Cars from Renault factory awaiting loading at Tanger Med (photo G.Tur)
Such dense traffic needs a combination of flexible shipping lines, and Renault is now satisfied with the options available. "Tanger Med is well served with lines although services could be more frequent than they are currently. At the end of last year, when exports were at their highest level, we completely filled our storage space without any particular consequences on operations", reflects Alain Joyeux.

The ships do loops of the Mediterranean, stopping off sufficiently frequently to be profitable because car imports to Morocco via Tanger Med would not fill all the vessels that are loaded with Renault cars on the return leg. "Ro-Ro imports to Tanger Med are still weak. Many imports still pass through Casablanca", recognises Alain Joyeux, even if, according to him, shipping company services specifically adapted to Renault have also offered other manufacturers opportunities for exports towards Morocco. “We offer one service per week to Casablanca as well as a competitive transit time that competes with the overland route through Spain", confirms Grégory Fourcin. According to him, "Tanger Med represents a hub port, particularly for containers. It also attracts traffic from Spain on RoPax ferries.

"Casablanca remains the national port of entry for general traffic and containers in particular while Tanger-Med is a transshipment hub", confirms Nora Marei, geographer at the CNRS and specialist on the Strait of Gibraltar.

Tanger Med competes with Casablanca

With Casablanca the main port for imports into Morocco and Tanger Med focussed on container transshipment, the map for Ro-Ro transport is slowly being redrawn. "Tanger Med is an important port for Ro-Ro traffic, hints the researcher. It has an advantage over Casablanca as the passage to Tanger Med is shorter than that to Casablanca. Tanger Med is beginning to compete with Casablanca for Ro-Ro ferries."

"Tanger Med competes for Ro-Ro traffic from Marseille because it attracts the inflows from the South of France towards Spain." “We are still competing with road haulage on this route", recognises Grégory Fourcin.

Tanger Med and the Europe-Morocco line via Spain (by road and across the Strait of Gibraltar) competes in some respects with the traditional Ro-Ro lines between Europe and the port of Casablanca.

For their part, European exporters are looking for a third way. "Today the France-Morocco axis needs to strengthen maritime links to compete with and complement services from other European ports, including those in Spain", said Marc Grolleau, president of AFTRI. "The Marseille - Tangier route must become a real alternative to road haulage through France and Spain for cargo transport", he claims. This is an alternative that is possible only through Tanger Med.  

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