Seeing is believing

Years ago, Morocco would have been a far cry from a maritime nation. The North African kingdom – a smorgasbord of Berber, Arabian, and European cultural influences, has however set out to invest sizably in establishing itself as a force to be reckoned with in international sea trade. 2004 marked the beginning of the construction of the Tanger Med port, which, upon its completion in 2007, became the one of the largest in Africa.

“Under a clear vision of his Majesty King Mohammed 6, the port has six main activities, the best-known of which being container shipping. We have a capacity to deal with three million containers every year,” Rachid Houari points out. Rachid is the General Manager of MEDHUB, which is the logistics free zone division of Tanger Med Port Authority – the company that manages the entire port complex. He goes on to provide us with additional figures that outline the scope of Tanger Med’s activities. “We handle nearly 300,000 trucks every year that are transferred from Morocco to Spain and thence – across Europe. Another key operation we oversee, is the export of brand-new cars made in Morocco and we have been capable of processing 400,000 cars every year, and soon, we shall handle 600,000 cars per year with the future opening of PSA factory.

“Furthermore, we serve nearly three million passengers per annum and on top of that, we handle dry and liquid bulk cargo. Last year, the Tanger Med 1 Port processed almost 52 million tonnes across all these activities, which is 40 per cent of the tonnage the entire country administers.”

Profiting from the port’s strategic location, Morocco has been singled out by a UN report as one of the best-connected countries in the world in terms of maritime transport. “We used to be number 83 on the Maritime Connectivity Index world ranking when the port was opened, but we have risen to number 16 at present times,” Rachid remarks. While astounding, the upsurge is hardly surprising, given that the Tanger Med port has a connection with a total of 174 ports in 74 countries.

With the port offering excellent links to the entire world, it has been eyed by a host of major companies that regularly settle their logistics hubs in MEDHUB, attracted by the sleek infrastructure created by the Port Authority. “We are probably the only place that has its warehouses and logistics free zone just 500 metres from the cargo ships. Usually, these are located ten or 20 miles from the port, but here we have them inside the actual port area, thus facilitating our client’s logistical operations,” Rachid explains.

Medhub, the global logistics hub “Furthermore, in our logistical Free Zone MEDHUB acts as a one stop shop to clients, and when you take into account that some of our biggest customers like Adidas, 3M, Bosch, Huawei and Decathlon manufacture their goods predominantly in Asia, they need the good connectivity to the continent we can offer,” he adds. “It is 20 days sea time from here to Asia and just an hour to Spain. We are also located on the main route to West Africa, meaning that we provide an ideal geographic spot for clients, as we offer an easy access to all the countries they want to send their goods to.”

The Tanger Med Group is not just about its Port & Industry activities. It is becoming more alogistical hub thanks to its 400,000 square metres of warehouses, where MEDHUB Class A warehouses have been rented out by big companies for the last four years, when the Port Authority decided that it needed to introduce a service that offers higher added value than the ordinary container transhipment. “It is not enough just to have a container discharged from the ship, reloaded onto another one and sent on its way afterwards. At MEDHUB we are trying to promote the warehousing service, so that we can get the goods discharged and stored there, allowing our clients to do picking, warehousing, co-packaging, labeling, assembly and quality control, which also means that we can create more jobs in this sector,” Rachid discusses.

In total Tanger Med Zones (Port & Industry) has been responsible for the opening of a head-whirling 70,000 jobs over the 11 years of its operation. The possibility has been realised thanks to the huge expanse of 5000 hectares the company has designated for its industrial free zones, of which ‘only’ 1600 hectares are currently in use by some 700 investors that have set up their factories in the area. “These zones have increased the traffic for us, as they continue to bring containers and trucks that we import and export to and from our port.”

The immediate success of Tanger Med Port quickly demonstrated that its capacity will not be enough to serve major customers for much longer. A second terminal has been under construction for a while that will add an extra capacity of six million containers TEU’s, taking the full capacity of the two terminals to nine million and making Tanger Med one of the top 20 busiest container ports in the world. “It is a huge project that will also allow us to process 120 million-130 million tonnes per year, which will almost triple our abilities in this aspect,” Rachid discloses, saying that the partial opening of Tanger Med II will be the chief area of focus for the business until the end of 2018.

“It is a major challenge for us, not just from a PR perspective, but on the operational side, too. It will be a semi-automated terminal and we have already received six cranes (the largest in the world), but we are expecting another six to be delivered in the coming months.

“At the moment, we are confident that the experience we have gathered in the 11 years we have been running Tanger Med 1 will help us manage the second terminal. Inthe meantime, we need to keep customer satisfaction levels high. Our job is to ensure the smooth flow of goods day in and day out. Transhipment accounts for 70 per cent of our business, therefore, we have to maintain our standards and levels of productivity, if we want to remain one of the preferred choice for a Mediterranean port,” Rachid states.

“Seeing is believing,” he exclaims, inviting readers to go and see for themselves the size of Tanger Med port. “What has been done in the past ten years has transformed Tanger from a virtually unknown area to Africa’s number one port and the success we have had has given us enough credibility to attract large industrial investors, who would have never come here, had the port not already been prosperous.”

Tanger Med Port Authority
The largest transhipment port in Africa
Currently building Tanger Med Port II to triple capacity
Connected with 174 ports worldwide