Morocco approaches the half-way point of the 2030 National Port Strategy

By 2021, it will be nine years since Morocco started its port career, with great advances reflected notably in the Tangier-Med port and several others expected before 2030
Atalayar_Puerto Casablanca

AFP/FADEL SENNA  -   Archival photograph of the Port of Casablanca

In 2010, Morocco was already developing what would be a major strategy of expansion and creation of ports throughout the whole of the Moroccan territory: The National Ports Strategy (SNP), with a clear horizon fixed at 2030.  

Its main objective has been to "develop the market share of Morocco in international maritime trade" as well as to "contribute to the regional balances of the Kingdom" through the "integration of the port system in the regional transport network", according to the Ministry of Equipment and Transport. 

Thus, by 2012, the investments in the various parts of the country, gathered in six main poles as shown in the following infographic, were already underway and were mainly looking for the specialisation of the ports. However, the extension of the free zones close to these poles or the embellishment of the city ports are also covered by this set of investments. 

Atalayar_Mapa Plan Puertos Marruecos

Perhaps the most resounding example of this whole policy is the mega-port Tangier-Med, to the North, in the Strait of Gibraltar. Operating since 2007 and following its extension completed in July 2019, it has become the largest port in the whole of the Mediterranean in terms of capacity of traded containers.

For the reader to understand this, the first place in the Mediterranean has recently been disputed between Valencia and Piraeus in Greece. The former moved a total quantity of 5.44 million TEU containers (standard measurement of a 20-foot container), slightly exceeded by the 5.65 million TEU containers of the Greek port. Tangier-Med, for its part, has a capacity to move 9 million TEUs a year

It is a port specialised in the transit trade of containers, a type of trade that uses the port as a stopover on its way to another port, the final destination. It is this activity that has made it the leading port in Morocco in terms of trade volume. 

Atalayar_Puerto Tanger Med
PHOTO/REUTERS - Overview of the Tangier-Med container port at Ksar Sghir, near the coastal city of Tangier, Morocco

However, Tangier-Med's contribution of goods to the country falls to third place as the main imports and exports have their gateway in and out of the ports of Jorf Lasfar and Casablanca

 Historically, Casablanca has been one of the main ports of the Alaouite country; however, the port of Jorf Lasfar (1982) has taken over from it since it surpassed it in 2018. This follows the opening in 2014 of the phosphate processing plant close to the port of Jorf Lasfar, which has made it the main phosphate export port of the country. Nevertheless, the port of Casablanca remains important and together with the previous port and Tangier-Med, it accounts for 85% of Moroccan maritime trade.  

New horizons

Moroccan port expansion is not limited to its current large ports. The example is the new port of Nador - very close to Melilla - expected to be completed by the end of 2021. Under the name of Nador West Med, it will accommodate on 850 hectares a total of 3 million TEU containers and 25 million tonnes of oil. This will be the first phase of the port complex. In the future and after various extensions, the Ministry of Equipment and Transport is forecasting an annual traffic of between 13 and 15 million TEU containers, exceeding the capacity of the port of Tangier-Med. 

The city of Kenitra on the Moroccan Atlantic coast has also managed to find a place in the 2030 national port strategy with a financing of around 740 million euros, slightly less than that devoted to Nador-Med.  

The present port of Kenitra is a former river port that the Moroccan Government intends to embellish to promote tourism and cruises. At the same time, the Kenitra Atlantique project will make up for the commercial loss of the city's port and will be situated 20 kilometres to the north of the city. This is a strategic location given its proximity to the Atlantic Free Zone, some 14 kilometres away, and the location of the PSA Peugeot-Citroën group's plant, inaugurated in 2019. 

Atalayar_Mohamed VI
AFP/FADEL SENNA - King Mohammed VI of Morocco

Phase one of the new Kenitra port project will include a quay reserved for the PSA Peugeot-Citroën group plant and a second for cereals. In phase two, it will include three mineral quays, each 260 metres long, and a refined hydrocarbons station.

From Nador to Kenitra, we continue south. Specifically, Dakhla, in Saharan territory. This region, referred to by Morocco as the Great Southern Region and maintained by the UN as a non-autonomous territory, is one of the richest in fish on the African Atlantic side. Morocco currently has fishing agreements with the European Union, which mostly fishes the coasts of Western Sahara, as 65% of Morocco's exploitable potential is found in the area. 

The Moroccan government has therefore embarked on the construction of a quay 70 kilometres north of Dakhla in Ntireft. The project takes the name of Dakhla Atlantique and has required an investment of 940 million euros for the next 6 years. It will be constituted as a commercial port but with a strong emphasis on fishing. It will also have a free zone to attract investments.  

Atalayar_Puerto Tanger Med 2
PHOTO/AFP - View of the port of Tangier Med, in the northern city of Tangier

With a planned traffic capacity of 2.2 million tonnes, an intermediate bridge between Casablanca and Dakar will thus be created. This bridge did not exist until the start of this project and the Canary Islands ports are likely to benefit from it.

The construction of the Lamhinz quay, dedicated to artisanal and coastal fishing and which will accommodate 300 boats, 22 of which will be dedicated to sardine fishing, is also expected to take place in Saharan territory. 

In short, a fortress in which Morocco has put a lot of effort, with current favourable results and hopeful futures. The capacity of its new and future infrastructures will position Morocco as a maritime power not only in the Mediterranean with Tangier-Med and Nador-Med, but also in the Atlantic, with the different projects launched and the traditional large ports.

The COVID-19 pandemic has not succeeded in paralysing the activity of the main Moroccan ports and it appears that nothing will stand in the way of achieving the objectives fixed in the 2030 National Ports Strategy.