Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Algeciras-Tangier cooperation agreement

The port of Algeciras and the port of Tangier have signed a cooperation agreement aimed at boosting the Strait of Gibraltar’s role as a hub for global trade.

The deal comes ahead of the start of operations in the new Tanger Med Port, the centrepiece of a Euro 1 billion project that is set to open for business next July.

The agreement between the Moroccan and Spanish ports covers everything from cooperation on port and customs operations to joint efforts on key issues such as maritime safety and environmental protection.

The aim is to foster collaboration on a broad range of mutual concerns, not just at institutional level but also between private port operators on either side of the Strait.

The new Tanger Med Port has often met with scepticism in Algeciras, where many view it as a potentially aggressive rival. But Manuel Morón, president of the Algeciras port authority, said the fears were unfounded, and that the opportunities outweighed the risks.

“All our efforts have always been geared to finding way of cooperating between both ports,” he said.

“We believe that exploiting the positive advantages of synergies between the two ports will bring mutual benefits for the ports, their port communities and for the regions where these ports are situated.”

Mr Morón, who will next year host the first ever meeting of all the port authorities of the Strait of Gibraltar, said it was important for Algeciras, Tangier, Tarifa, Ceuta and Gibraltar to work together to project the region’s strategic potential to the outside world.

The thrust toward closer ties with its neighbours – Algeciras signed a similar agreement with Gibraltar prior to the summer – comes at a time of radical growth in port infrastructure in the Strait.

The Spanish port, the busiest in Spain handling 60 million tonnes of freight every year, is well advanced with major expansion projects that will dramatically increase its capacity.

The Tanger Med Port, meanwhile, will have enough capacity to handle 1.5 million containers a year as from next July, with plans to double that capacity by 2009.

The port will also boast new ferry berths to handle passenger and freight traffic, as well as facilities for bunkering and dry cargoes such as grain.

Saïd Elhadi, chairman of the executive board of the Tanger Mediterranean Special Agency, said yesterday that the port facilities were part of a far broader project that included improved road and rail links to the Moroccan hinterland.

The investments also include plans for a free trade zone to be run by Dubai-based Jebel Ali Free Zone.


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