Tangier: a fascinating and highly productive study trip!

A combination of both wonder and a certain admiration were in evidence in the discussions between the AIVP members present in Tangier for this study trip: wonder at the sheer scale and number of projects; and admiration at the speed with which some of them have been brought to fruition. We look back at an audacious ambition that has already been crowned with success.

Tanger Med, development in action

While the port of Tanger Med today enjoys wide international recognition, it was originally intended for the Atlantic coastline, where the necessary land had been earmarked. As pointed out by Mrs Najlaa Diouri, Chief Executive of Tanger Med Port Authority, things changed in 2003 when  the King Mohamed VI set out his strategic vision for the country’s development and decided to position the port on the Mediterranean coast, close to the 14 kilometre-wide Strait of Gibraltar that separates Europe and Africa. The first container terminal, operated by APM Terminal, entered service at Tanger Med 1 in 2007, while a second, operated by Eurogate, followed a year later.
Initially conceived for transshipment, the port’s profile quickly evolved into something else. In 2014, of the 42 Mt of traffic and just over 3 million TEUs, some 40% concerned import-export activity. Faced with growing traffic volumes, a decision was taken in 2008 to launch construction of Tanger Med 2, despite the global crisis. With 2.8 km of docks (compared with Tanger Med 1’s 1.6 km) and 200 hectares of quayside land, the extension will take the port’s overall capacity to 8.2 million TEUs.
The king’s vision was clearly the right one. Today, some 100,000 vessels pass through the strait every year, along with 20% of the world’s trade, 40 million TEUs and 5 million passengers. According to Mr Rachid Houari, Chief Executive of Tanger Med 1, in order to procure a steadily growing share of that traffic, the idea was to position the port as close as possible to it and to offer shipowners a handy point-of-call with “zero deviation” from their main route.
The port also owes much of its success to an overall strategy tailored to take advantage of the new facility: service infrastructures (connections to a new motorway and the national rail network), tax breaks with a logistics free zone on the site, and a vast neighbouring industrial and logistics platform covering a total of 1200 hectares, which is now home to some 650 companies. Finally, the special status granted to TMSA, the authority responsible for the port of Tanger Med, and the level of independence it enjoys to manage landholdings and act as the sole interface in negotiations with the various stakeholders, have also helped to facilitate and accelerate the project.
Thanks to all of these advantages, Tanger Med is now connected to more than 160 other ports on five continents, and was ranked the world’s 46th container port in 2014. The same advantages also help to explain the success of the passenger and RO-RO port, which has been operating since 2010. In 2014, a total of 220,000 trucks and 2.4 passengers passed through it, and there is still room for substantial further growth, as the facility was designed for an annual capacity of 7 million passengers and 700,000 trucks. It can handle up to 50 ship turnarounds per day, notably at peak times, with a record of 32,000 passengers in one day.

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Tanger Med Port Center, the beating heart of a flourishing activity

At the heart of the port complex lies the “Tanger Med Port Center (TMPC)”, a business centre designed by Jean Nouvel following an international competition. For Medhi Bouhriz, commercial manager of the Tanger Med Port Center, the chosen design offered two key strengths:

  • its references to traditional Moroccan architecture, including a series of patios;
  • the way it allowed for a combination of different functions. The building measures 400 metres in length, has two floors covering 7 hectares of space, and offers a multimodal terminal (road, rail, passenger) and a variety of services for local residents or visitors to the TMPC: offices, living spaces (banks, shops, etc.), auditorium, viewpoints overlooking the container and RO-RO terminals, hotel (yet to be fitted out), and more.

Eventually, the aim is to bring together the entire port community of Tangier in this place, to promote cooperation, collaboration and efficiency for the services on offer. This movement towards concentrating activities in one location is well under way, and many companies have already set up their offices there. It is important to consider that Tanger Med already employs some 6000 people directly, with a further 150,000 jobs indirectly dependent on the port.

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Renault Tanger, the proof of Tanger Med

The decision by the Nissan-Renault group to establish a base of operations in the city perfectly illustrates Tangier’s industrial and logistical attraction. Renault has been operating in Morocco since 1928, and first began ramping up its presence in the country during the 2000s, taking over Fiat’s shares in the Casablanca installation. According to Jean-François Gal, Managing Director of Renault’s Tangier plant, things accelerated again in 2012 with the decision to build the facility he now oversees. In addition, the plant is the only one of its kind to have a completely neutral carbon footprint: it has its own biomass plant burning olive pits, and is also connected to a wind farm. This enables it to satisfy 100% of its energy requirements. It also has a very advanced approach to water treatment.
The plant today occupies a 300 hectare site and houses two manufacturing lines. Production has grown steadily since 2012 and is expected to reach 230,000 vehicles by 2015, over 90% of which are made for the export market. The plant may be some distance from the port of Tanger Med, but the 45 kilometre rail link that runs directly between the plant and the RO-RO port provides an effective solution to this.
From a social perspective, the plant has its own on-site training institute, created in collaboration with the Moroccan government and which is also open to other industrial operators. Renault are very proud of their approach to training and skills transfers, and presently almost all of the site’s 7200 employees are Moroccan.

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Tanger Ville, committed to becoming an international tourist and cultural destination

In line with King Mohamed VI’s desire to raise the profile of Morocco’s northern regions, Tangier profited from moves in the 2000s to develop the Region’s transport infrastructure, from the launch of the Tanger Métropole project in the field of healthcare, education, urban planning, etc., and finally from the project to convert the port of Tanger Ville and turn the port city into a tourist destination. The project was developed with two key priorities: bringing the water back to the city by excavating the dock basins closest to the urban front, and opening up the port to the city by promoting greater fluidity. To this end, four principal actions were identified:

  • port activities were relocated to Tanger Med, while a policy focused on cruise and marine tourism was developed at Tanger Ville;
  • industrial activities were relocated to the free zones in the city, to create new public spaces and structuring amenities;
  • fishing activities were modernised and moved to a new location on the same site;
  • efforts were undertaken to promote the port’s historic and maritime heritage.

According to Mohamed Ouanaya, President of SAPT (Port of Tanger Ville Redevelopment Company), not all of these relocations were accepted by local residents and users, as they also involved upgrades to production sites and the installation of transport facilities for their employees. The fishermen, meanwhile, saw the amount of space set aside for their activities trebled, received brand new, modernised facilities, and additionally all now own their installations, compared with just 20% previously.

To give some idea of the scale of the ambition, the project notably includes:

  • one marina with almost 774 moorings (and a range of services relating to boating, sailing school, a boatyard, etc.) and a second with 626 moorings;
  • a new cruise ship wharf with three berths;
  • modernisation of the passenger terminal, which will eventually have capacity for 1.3 million passengers;
  • a newly restored beach;
  • 30 hectares of public spaces, including five large squares of 2 to 8 hectares, linked by wide promenades;
  • an aerial tramway system (2800 passengers / hour) linking the passenger terminal with the Medina and the modern city, and various sectors of the city-port project, including a stop at the junction with the new fishing port and the passenger/cruise terminal. Work to restore the gates and walls of the Medina is now at an advanced stage, and will provide a superb opening and a magnificent viewpoint overlooking the reconfigured sea front, as we observed at the end of the study trip;
  • a conference centre with capacity for up to 1500 persons, a multiplex, three hotels, a shopping centre, cafe and restaurant.
  • 20,000 m² of office space and 80,000 m² of luxury residential units.

All of these facilities will benefit not only local residents, but also the visitors that Tangier hopes to attract.
The creation in 2010 of the state-owned but independent SAPT, which acquired the port land free of charge and was then tasked with overseeing all of the works, has also played a crucial role in putting Tangier back on the world map. The port aspect of the project was handled by SGPTV (Port of Tanger Ville Management Company) created in 2012, 50% of whose funding comes from its own equity and loans, with the other 50% coming from private funds based in the UAE.
The gamble undertaken in the 2000s is in the process of being won, with the motorway coming to Tangier, the bay being cleaned of pollution, the Medina made more attractive, a modern airport built, Tangier connected to Africa’s first ever high-speed rail network, and so on. Ten years later, most of the work has been done and this has created a virtuous circle in which investors are attracted to finance new developments.

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At both Tanger Ville and Tanger Med, the projects undertaken are highly ambitious, but what is especially astonishing is the sheer speed with which they have been achieved. In a few years’ time, AIVP’s members will no doubt be interested in returning to Tangier – why not for an even more ambitious AIVP event? At any rate, everyone already agrees we should meet again!

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