Tanger Med grows facilities, Virginia trade
The gleaming new port of Tanger Med, located in Morocco on the southern shore of the Strait of Gibraltar, will launch inland container rail service in June, according to Said Elhadi, president of the Tanger Mediterranean Special Agency in charge of developing and managing the port and related logistics and industrial zones.
When the rail connection to the two container terminals is completed this month, Tanger Med will be able to compete for domestic import and export cargo with the Port of Casablanca, Elhadi told American Shipper following a presentation at the Virginia Maritime Association's annual conference in Norfolk on May 14.
Although Tanger Med is managed by a state-owned company, the Moroccan government believes competition between the ports will improve productivity and service quality, he said.
Tanger Med was designed primarily to serve as a transshipment hub at a key crossroads for marine cargo from Asia, Europe, Africa and the Americas. The two container terminals, operated under concessions by APM Terminals and Eurogate, opened for business in July 2007 and August 2008, respectively. Last year the port handled 930,000 TEUs, slightly less than one-third its capacity.
A car carrier terminal that will serve as a transfer hub for roll-on/roll-off vessels and export gateway for a Renault plant in Morocco is scheduled to begin operation in 2011.
|The new port of Tanger Med, on the southern shore of the Strait of Gibraltar in Morocco.|
A large ferry service to Spain capable of handling 7 million cars and 700,000 trucks per year is expected to start next year.
The Tanger Med Special Agency has delayed construction on the second phase of the container facility until next year due to the slowdown in global trade, Elhadi told the 250 attendees.
The $3.5 billion expansion will bring the port's transshipment capacity to 8 million TEUs. The Tanger Med authority last summer awarded 30-year concessions to an APM Terminals joint venture with a Moroccan conglomerate to serve Maersk Line vessels and Singapore-based PSA's joint venture with Moroccan port operator Marsa Maroc to operate a common-user terminal.
Tanger Med will also begin operating a large fuel terminal this year. The terminal will have capacity to store 512,000 cubic meters of refined oil products and provide bunkering fuel for ships transiting the Strait of Gibraltar. The terminal will serve as an import and transshipment facility.
Virginia is hotly pursuing trade with Tanger Med and Morocco, highlighted by Gov. Timothy Kaine's recent trade mission to the North African nation.
French container line CMA CGM will start an eastbound service from the Port of Virginia to Tangiers on June 6. Norfolk will be final East Coast port of call on the PEX 3 round-the-world service from Asia. CMA CGM is adding new direct calls to Tanger Med and Jebel Ali in Dubai for the PEX 3, which employs 5,100-TEU vessels.
Morocco is the third-largest importer of Virginia agricultural products. Virginia is the largest exporter of eggs to Morocco, which concluded a free trade agreement with the United States in 2004. Trade between the two countries reached $193 million in 2008. Moroccan products imported into the United States include vegetables, spices and apparel.
The Virginia Port Authority and Tanger Med signed a memorandum of understanding in April 2008 to promote new ocean services, conduct joint marketing and share data, technology and training.
The Virginia Port Authority, in addition to pursuing more Asia traffic via the Suez Canal, believes that Tanger Med can be a key platform for tapping trade with emerging markets in West Africa using feeder ships, Executive Director Jerry Bridges said. ' Eric Kulisch