APM Terminal building major complex at Tanger-Med.

The announcement last week by Maersk’s APM Terminals (APMT) division of its winning the Tanger-Med 2 container terminal concession is being perceived by some as an example of the strength of the Mediterranean trans-shipment market. The terminal, which is located a few miles from the port city of Tangiers, has a projected capacity of 5m TEUs, a scale that is only justified through access to the trans-shipment market. APMT state that the investment will be €758m and the first ‘anchor’ client will be, unsurprisingly, Maersk Line when the terminal opens in 2019.

The new terminal will complement the existing APMT facility at ‘Tanger-Med 1’, which is the other, smaller half of the facility as well as the APMT terminal at Algeciras which is across the straits of Gibraltar and includes a ro-ro facility which links the Spanish port to the Tanger-Med complex. This is a formidable combination.

However, the developments around Tangiers are more important than just another trans-shipment port, even one of such size.

It represents an attempt by the Moroccan government to use the power of logistics to transform their economy. Although Morocco appears to have been influenced by the example of Dubai in terms of the strength of logistics assets in powering an economy perhaps Shenzhen would be a better parallel, at least in terms of the size of population in the ports hinterland.

Organic to the Tanger-Med complex is a large industrial park whose centre-piece is an automotive assembly plant owned by Renault. There is also room for further large-scale industrial activity which could offer European manufacturers substantial options for ‘off-shore’ assembly operations, accessing an economy market awash with low-cost labour.

In addition, the potential for improvement for logistics in sub-Saharan Africa could be significant. Although the road network south of Morocco is largely absent which reduces the potential for Tangiers to become a multi-modal logistics hub, the increase in trans-shipment potential serving west Africa would be a useful development. At present container and other freight moving within Africa usually needs to pass through ports in Europe such is the absence of infrastructure. Tanger-Med may reduce this dependence somewhat, although it is still a considerable distance from most of West Africa, let alone Central and Southern Africa.

Author: Thomas Cullen

Source: Transport Intelligence, 6th April 2016