The new Atlantic port of Dakhla : the key to the dynamisation of the region

The Moroccan authorities present the evolution of the new industrial port of the Saharawi region of Dakhla to the Spanish business community
obras puerto dakhla

GUILLERMO LOPEZ/ATALAYAR  -   Construcción del nuevo puerto atlántico de Dakhla

8 years remain for the new Atlantic port of Dakhla to see its works completed and to become the biggest port in Morocco, even ahead of Tangier-Med. Abderrahmane Allou, director of the project, boasts of this in front of a large group of Spanish businessmen listening to him under a tent on the Sahara coast, some 70 km from the centre of the city of Dakhla. 

The visit is part of the Spain-Morocco Investment Forum being held in the Moroccan-administered Saharan city, where the government is working to bring infrastructure and industrial complexes out of the sands. Included in this Moroccan development plan for the region is this new port, for which the work was awarded for the first time to two construction giants at the same time. In a joint venture, SGTM and SOMAGEC SUD are building from October 2021 what is necessary to start work on the port on a gigantic site of 1650 hectares. Of this area, 410 hectares will be reserved for future projects whilst the remaining 1240 hectares will be occupied by the port activity zone and the industrial zone. 

The joint venture studies located the project in an area adapted to the technical requirements of a port of this size. The price of the plots of land came into play, which, as they move away from the city, fall in price and increase in extension. 

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The site management has plans for the port activity zone to consist of three zones spread over 1330 metres of quays. The plans place these piers at a prudent distance from the coast. The structure will be raised on the seabed and connected to the shore by a breakwater. The distance between the shore and the piers will be considerable. Furniture requires a depth of 16 metres for those destined for industrial activity. This is the necessary draft for Panamax class cargo ships, those with the standard to cross the Panama Canal. Finally, a dry dock for repairs with a shallower draft than the two previous ones will also have its place in the port.

These three activities, industrial transport, fishing and repair are the three which have been identified by the preliminary study as the major needs of the region for which the port can provide solutions. "We want to be better than Tangier Med, but obviously we are not going to be totally comparable", summarised Abderrahmane Allou to the questions of the curious businessmen. He is mainly referring to the role of transporting passengers. However, the industrial capacity of the port will be very relevant. The forecasts of the technical office envisage a capacity of 1 million containers, in the 20 foot standard, which would represent 10 million tonnes of goods according to the mass of the average container.

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In addition to the container capacity, there is also capacity for tankers, mainly for hydrocarbons. "We want the region to have its necessary contribution in hydrocarbons thanks to this port", Allou added. The port plans to be able to store 5 million tonnes of oil per year. 

Several European companies are participating in the construction of this large port, to which a budget of 12.4 billion dirhams has been allocated, including some Spanish companies. Sato, Sener, Artelia and Green are some of the firms which have contributed their engineering expertise as a grain of sand in the construction of the industrial port. The concrete blocks that will protect the structure from the inclemency of the tide will be of Spanish patent, for example. 

obras puerto dakhla

Also noteworthy is the project's desire to be powered by renewable energies and to be sustainable. In line with Morocco's national energy policy, which is strongly committed to photovoltaic or green hydrogen produced by electrolysis, those responsible for the project proudly announced that they plan to supply 100% of the project's energy consumption through photovoltaic energy, together with a more conventional generator for emergencies. 

The major project, which is expected to be operational by 2029, is moving forward. "So far everything has gone smoothly. Thank God we have not encountered any problems", declared Zahir Youssef, in charge of the technical area of the project. Once completed, the port will become one of the main attractions for foreign investment in the area and a driving force for the regional economy. Entrepreneurs from the Canary Islands, present during the ceremony, raised their doubts about possible competition between the new port of Dakhla and those of the Canary Islands, to which the Moroccan leaders of the project wanted to respond by assuring a complementarity and an opportunity for the promotion of the common economy, one of the main messages of the Spain-Morocco Investment Forum.