DOSSIER. The port of Tanger Med has evolved over the years to become a genuine concept for port logistics. It is no longer a simple place for the loading and unloading of goods, but an ecosystem that combines port logistics and industrial activity.
To reduce Tanger Med to its mere ranking as the 43rd container port in the world would be to ignore the platform's ambitions, which go far beyond this perimeter. Since 2007, which is when its first container terminal came into service (see our chronology), Tangier has rapidly risen up the world rankings to become the leading African port in terms of number of containers. Close enough to be seen through binoculars from Algeciras, Tanger Med's development has evolved through different founding principals than those of its competitors and has become an interconnecting ecosystem of port and industrial logistics.
Tanger Med's originality lies in its shape and diversity. A public limited company, the Tanger Med Special Agency (TMSA), was created to allow the project of a large port logistics complex to see the light of day. Wholly owned by the State, it is endowed with public prerogatives and acts as a one-stop shop for companies wishing to set up in the territory assigned to it. It also acts as a port authority and issues building permits.
Three complementary divisions
TMSA is divided into three divisions:
- The first concerns the port complexe with Tanger Med Port Authority. It manages the port's terminals and has governing powers in the port district.
- The second division is dedicated to the industrial platform of Tanger Med Zones. This organization develops the various free zones around the port, builds the warehouses, leases out the spaces to companies and markets the spaces in the six zones scattered around the port.
- Finally, a third division focuses on services, with Tanger Med Engineering, Tanger Med Utilities and Cires Technologies.
"From the moment the port was created, the King Mohammed VI asked us to take things even further. Creating a port and connecting it to others is relatively easy. On its own, the port is of little use. It must therefore be linked to industrial activities," says Hassan Abkari, Deputy Director General of Tanger Med Port Authority.
Dedicated free zones by sector
The concept of Tanger Med enters into its full dimension. A 5,000 hectare area just behind the wharves has been included to encourage industrial development. The whole Tanger Med concept is based on this complementarity: that of having a port that meets international standards and free zones dedicated to different business lines.
A new idea? In fact, this system has been in existence for some years in the world's major seaports, whether it be in Rotterdam, Shanghai, Le Havre or Los Angeles. The container traffic of these establishments is aided by the presence of logisticians in close proximity to the ports. The originality of Tanger Med is in the creation of free zones specialized by sector. Logisticians are grouped in one area, mass retailers in another, the automotive sector in a third. In parallel with this, Tanger Med has also diversified its activities in the port. After the container sector, the port developed the automobile sector by creating a specialised hub.
By relying on a dedicated agency to develop this concept, the government has met one of the King's main expectations : to make logistics and the port an extension of his spatial planning policy. Up until the creation of Tanger Med, the port of Tangier only played the role of a port for ferries coming from Europe. The country's main ports were located on the Atlantic coast.
A logistical vocation supported at the very highest levels
By creating the concept of Tanger Med, Mohammed VI wished to breath new life into the northern region of the country, explain the port officials of Tangier. According to initial figures, in 20 years, Tanger Med has created 75,000 jobs in the region, in various industrial and service sectors.
The Kingdom's proactive approach to developing its strategic role in the supply chain extends to the very highest levels. Morocco is one of the few countries in the world to have appointed a minister in charge of logistics. The government formed on 5 April 2017 included a Ministry of Public Works, Transport, Logistics and Water, whose responsibility has been entrusted by the King to Abdelkader Amara. Holder of a doctorate from the Hassan II Institute of Agronomy and Veterinary Medicine, during the previous government the Minister participated in the setting up of the second production line at Renault's Tangier plant. The last incumbent of this post had previously held a position as an IT specialist in a logistics company.
Tanger Med has become the leading African port in terms of number of containers, the leading African automotive hub but also the leading African logistics zone. The authorities do not exclude the possibility of applying the concept in other countries. The major international tenders for container terminals in Africa have not highlighted the name of Tanger Med but rather that of Marsa Maroc, the handling subsidiary of the former Alaouite port system. This organization could, in the future, play the role of spearheading a broader strategy of expansion into other African ports.
However, for the moment the going is tough. For exemple, its project to bid for the management of Ghana's Takoradi port met with failure. The Ghanaian port authority kept hold of the reins. Despite this, the principle of delegation of public service of ports is beginning to spread across Africa. The Autonomous Port of Cotonou, in Benin, has already taken the plunge. Beyond Takoradi, Marsa Maroc also suffered a further failure in the multi-purpose terminal bid in Kribi, Cameroon. The Cameroonian port authority chose the Philippine group Ictsi to manage this terminal. Previously, Marsa Maroc had applied for other calls for tenders by joining consortia, without further success. In particular, it was beaten to the finish-line for the Abidjan TC2 bid by the Bolloré group. African port strategy seems to be oriented more towards the creation of port hubs than port logistics centres as developed by Tanger Med.
TANGER MED IN FIGURES
- 52.2 MT in 2018 (+ 1.8% compared to 2017)
- 5.9 MT of liquid bulk (-21%)
- 254,190 T of solid bulk (-18%)
- 3.4 M TEUs (+5%). A significant increase that almost led to overcapacity as the nominal capacity for Tanger Med 1 is exactly 3.4 M TEUs.
- 479,321 new vehicles (+11%) and 3.4 M TEUs (+5%).
- 183,606 articulated trucks (95% of the country's international road traffic)