The Strait of Gibraltar is flanked by the Pillars of Hercules, which – legend has it – the Greek hero is said to have created on his way to face the giant Geryon on the island of Erytheia. Even in Antiquity, the Pillars of Hercules were deemed to be the gateway to Oceanos, the river surrounding the earth. In some respects, this still holds true today, since the Strait of Gibraltar connects the Mediterranean and the Atlantic Ocean.
According to mythology, one of the Pillars is the Rock of Gibraltar and the other is Mount Abyle, today Djebel Musa, near the Spanish enclave of Ceuta in North Africa. Contrary to popular belief, this is not the narrowest point separating Europe and Africa. The shortest distance between the two continents lies somewhat further westward, between Sebta in Morocco and Tarifa in Spain. And this is also roughly where the new TangerMed I port with the EUROGATE Tanger Container Terminal is located – just 14 km off the Spanish mainland.
Every year, 66,000 ships pass through the Strait of Gibraltar from the Mediterranean to the Atlantic, and vice versa. If crossings between Spain and Morocco are included, the figure increases to 97,000 ships. From a geostrategic perspective, the location could not be better. Everything and everybody passes through here:
people, vehicles, and goods.
Economic impulses for Morocco
For the kingdom of Morocco, the TangerMed I port is vital to the country’s economic future. It is expected to stimulate trade in the entire country. It is hoped that the port complex will encourage international enterprises and logistics companies to set up business in the surrounding area. As a hub for global goods flows, Tangier certainly has a lot to offer – and not only because of its geographic location. Unlike its Spanish neighbour Algeciras on the other side of the Strait, Tangier is outside the EU economic area and therefore offers a number of competitive advantages that favourably position the location for the finishing industry.
And since a functioning logistics infrastructure is essential for ny country’s economic development, with the development of TangerMed the Moroccan government is taking a decisive step in the right direction. Many Moroccan products are manufactured in the country’s hinterland and transported by ship across the Strait of Gibraltar to Spain, where they are containerised and shipped to the rest of the world. From Tangier, this whole process will in future become much faster and simpler.
At the start of operations, the volume of local cargo will remain small, however. Tangier is first and foremost a transhipment port for the western Mediterranean and Europe. From here, cargo will also be shipped to West Africa and the U.S. But the plans of the Moroccan government do not stop there: work has already started on the construction of TangerMed II, just west of TangerMed I.
TangerMed I comprises a ferry port, a logistics free trade zone, an intermodal station and a deep-water container terminal made up of two sections. Both APM Terminals and the EUROGATE and Contship Italia consortium have each been granted a 30 year operating licence. EUROGATE Tanger Container Terminal went
into operation in October 2008 and had already handled as many as 65,000 standard containers by the end of the year.
A new 53 km long motorway links the port to the Casablanca – Tangier motorway. A 45 km rail link is also planned, which will connect the port to the national rail network.