Morocco: Full steam ahead for Tanger Med

Tanger Med in Morocco will become the biggest container port in Africa.


Contracts have been awarded over the past few weeks that will transform Tanger Med in Morocco into the biggest container port in Africa. The facility is already handling as much cargo as Durban in South Africa.

APM Terminals (APMT) is developing the fourth terminal at the port, named MedPort Tangier, which will take total port capacity up to 9m TEU a year. TEU measures a ship’s cargo carrying capacity, and the measurement is equivalent to 20 feet in length and 8 feet in height.

Netherlands-based APMT signed deals to buy 44 new cranes for the facility in late October, while the project management contract on the venture was awarded on 5 December.

APMT was awarded a 30-year concession to build and operate MedPort Tangier in March. With annual handling capacity of 5m TEU a year, it will be by far the biggest container terminal on the African continent, more than twice the size of the largest terminal at Durban, which has a capacity of 3m TEU. There will be scope to add a further 1m TEU at a later date.

The two-year project management and supervision engineering services contract was awarded to Hill International. China’s ZPMC secured the deal to produce the 12 remote controlled ship-to-shore (STS) cranes, while Austria’s Künz will supply 32 automated rail mounted gantry cranes, with all cargo handling equipment due to be delivered by the end of next year. ZPMC, which is based in Shanghai, has managed to dominate the industry over the past few years and has supplied cranes to many of Africa’s modern container terminals.

APMT is based in the Netherlands but is owned by Danish firm Maersk and MedPort Tangier will be dedicated for use by Maersk and its alliance partners. The existing three terminals currently handle more than 3m TEU a year, beyond their combined design capacity of 2.8m TEU. Tanger Med has already won some business from the Port of Algeciras in Spain because of its lower costs and higher productivity.

MedPort Tangier managing director, Dennis Olesen, said: “Our goal is to use proven technology to create high-productivity for our clients on one of the world’s most strategically important trade lanes on the Strait of Gibraltar.” The terminal will be the first in Africa able to serve the new generation of massive container vessels. Known as Ultra Large Container Ships, they can carry up to 20,000 TEU.

The facility, which is expected to cost €758m, is scheduled to open in 2019 and will act as an important transhipment terminal for the Western Mediterranean. Tanger Med is also helping Morocco deepen its role as a manufacturing centre. French car maker Renault now produces 250,000 vehicles a year in the country, while another French firm Valeo is setting up a new factory at an initial cost of €50m.

Tunisia and Algeria are similarly well placed to host a massive container terminal that could compete with Tanger Med but have yet to do so. In the case of Algeria, the government is still not yet willing to give the private sector sufficient free rein to develop such projects, while the country continues to lag behind in terms of encouraging manufacturing investment. Despite the presence of several large ports, Egypt too lacks anything on the same scale as Tanger Med.

At the opposite end of the continent, a new dug out port is planned on the site of the old Durban International Airport, which would have annual handling capacity of 8m TEU but the project remains on the drawing board. Tanger Med is likely to be the biggest port in Africa for a long time to come.

Neil Ford

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