Quotes from the interview with Rachid Houari and Hassan Abkari, Tanger Med, Morocco

Rachid Houari

I.) “Our history and achievements began fifteen years ago and still continue. These fifteen years of work originated with the vision of H.R.H. King Mohammed VI, whom, in 2003, launched a project which not only encompassed ports but also the industry in the northern part of Morocco - the closest to Europe -, creating value and employment for the surrounding region. “How did it become such a landmark? First, thanks to His Majesty the King’s vision of the port’s strategic location. Secondly, during the first three to four years of designing the port. We have a business-oriented mentality, and this translated, during the first years of operations, into attracting good partners such as Maersk-APM, Renault… and so on. We ensure that satisfying the needs and demands of our clients, and in so doing, draw in further investments.”

II.) “The total investment in Tanger Med Port and the wider industrial zone is 9,1 billion USD, half of which is public and the other half private. Instead of just considering the public side, I think it is interesting to look into the four billion euros brought by private investments. What we see are companies such as Maersk-APM Who invested 150 million euros ten years ago, and who later decided to invest 900 million euros. Eurogate led consorsium including CMA CGM followed and also invested 150 million euros. These figures are higher than the public funds’ amounts. We are dealing with private companies that operate in over eighty countries. They do not allocate their funds randomly.

III.) “The port has been elected first port in Africa three years in a row, ahead of Port Said in Egypt or Durban in South Africa coming in second place. This, happened in only seven years of operations - between 2007 and 2014. When Tanger Med is compared with other ports, the competitors are usually over a hundred years old. Tanger Med is just over ten years old. It is still a young project and it is growing fast, but transhipment counts for a great part.”

IV.) “Tanger Med II is opening this year, which is twice the capacity of Tanger Med I. This is still very fast. If figures don’t change, this would place us in the top twenty ports worldwide, out of five hundred ports. Today we are number forty-five.”

V.) “Ten years ago Tangier was the fifth largest city in Morocco in terms of economy. Now it is the second, after Casablanca. It is a big step forward in just a decade. Through our industrial zones and the investments we managed to attract, there have been around 75,000 jobs created directly. The impact on the region is considerably significant.”

VI.) “In Morocco, the majority of international employers are not French or Spanish as it might be expected; they are Japanese and American. I think it is a rather unknown fact in the UK. Industrials and private investors assume that Morocco is a francophone area only, they are doing excellent business here.”

Hassan Abkari

I.) “Tanger Med is a public agency endowed with special prerogatives. It uses public funds but we are managed as a private company. The involvement of the public sector is very obvious in PPP scheme. Around fifty percent of total investment is brought by private operators that are managing the terminals or producing goods such as cars for example. As you can see, it’s an integrated project”.
“Linking the port to the hinterland was one of the major components of this success story. Without this important aspect, we would have been a simple logistics platform dedicated to transhipment serving the big shipping lines without any direct, positive consequences on the local population in terms of job creation. Seven hundred million dollars have been dedicated to the highways and railways connecting the port to the Moroccan network in Tangier city, about 65 kilometres of rail link.”

II.) “During the high season we have a departure every half hour to Spain. These vessels are able to carry up to forty-five trucks, or 300 cars. Speed to market is a matter of importance to us. At the end of the day, we are a service company - we integrate all the components from custom clearing operations to all kinds of controls one can find on a frontier.

III.) “All countries are interested in enhancing their export capabilities and Morocco is of course seeking to reach the same goal. If you have a young, skilled labour force, or a land, or incentives, or all of the above, you still need to be connected to the world. This is where Tanger Med plays an important role. It allows Morocco to be connected to the world. Today, the port is connected to over 186 ports around the world in 77 countries.”
“When you build a facility like this port, you may have the technical knowledge to make the relevant infrastructure, but you still need to put the port on the map. And that means raising interest from shipping lines to add your port as a regular stop in their service.”

“Morocco is exchanging about one million containers with the world - this figure encompasses both imports and exports. Once you are added to the routes of the right shipping lines, it means you become a regular, direct link to the rest of the world. This is how we have managed to reach such a high level of connectivity in Morocco in very few years.”

IV.) “We have an asset here at Tanger Med - we are a zero-deviation port. This means that a vessel crossing the Strait of Gibraltar was already crossing less than three miles from our coast. The customer we are trying to attract is potentially calling in Tokyo or Rotterdam before Tanger Med. From day one, we have to offer the same level of service. I am referring to pilot service, mooring services, communications and so on. The real challenge we have faced and have managed to make a success of is preparing the right people to manage the port in an international way.

“The moment people start to trust you as a result of their experiences as a customer, they start to trust you as a company. They can rely on you delivering containers on time, delivering maritime services as per the international standards, and to continue to offer adequate services on land in terms of exports and imports. And in this way, you start convincing international actors to invest. Investments at Tanger Med stands at 9,1 b USD.
V. “Businesses are comparing different regions in terms of stability, costs, facilitation and ease of doing business, as well as proximity to African markets. Tanger Med is the transhipment location of reference to connect the ports of the West African coast with the ports of the rest of the world.”

VI.) “In Morocco, there is a before Tanger Med, and an after Tanger Med. Before Tanger Med industries, value creation and job creation were focused on an area between Rabat and Casablanca, Kenitra and El Jadida. After Tanger Med, Morocco has managed to rebalance its territories, creating a new area in which jobs and value are being produced and the people of Tangier and Tetouan are now benefiting from it.”