The opening of a new container terminal at the Moroccan hub of Tangiers is likely to bring relief to a West Mediterranean transhipment market hitting dangerous utilisation levels.
Maersk’s terminal operating subsidiary, APM Terminals, opened its second Tangier Med facility, adding 5m teu capacity to the market and taking overall capacity at the port to nine million teu.
Neil Davidson, senior analyst of ports and terminals at Drewry, dismissed any fears this could create overcapacity among the region’s box ports.
According to Drewry data, APMT’s Algeciras and existing Tangier facilities are operating at 95% capacity; Eurogate’s Tangier terminal at over 85%; HMM’s Algeciras facility at over 80%; and MSC’s transhipment operations at Valencia and Sines at 90% and 80%, respectively.
“They have little scope to accommodate market growth,” he said, “plus there are still more ULCVs coming, which should increase the need for transhipment in the West Med, replicating what existing ULCV services are doing.
“As ever though with transhipment terminals, backing by a major shipping line/alliance is critical to success and viability,” Mr Davidson explained.
The construction of APMT’s MedPort Tangier took two years and represented investment of $800m.
“This new transhipment terminal will join the hub facilities servicing Maersk and its partners’” said Maersk. “Built utilising the latest technology, the terminal is set to be one of the most efficient and safe in the world.”
Morten Engelstoft, chief executive of APMT, added: “APM Terminals has a long-term relationship with Morocco and we are proud to be operating the second container terminal in the Tanger-Med port complex. MedPort Tangier is a key junction in our global network, allowing us to serve our customers better and further facilitate global trade.”
According to Aplhaliner data, Tangier port handled 3.47m teu in 2018, a 4.1% increase on the previous year. And Mr Davidson added that the new terminal would “accelerate the trend in Mediterranean of consolidation of transhipment box ports into a few larger hubs”.
He added: “Also, you have the clear trend that smaller hubs are struggling, for example Cagliari is now out of the game and the terminal closed and Malaga exited the market – although it has re-entered on a small scale with backing from Maersk.
“The trend is for a smaller number of bigger hubs, and Tanger Med is set to become the biggest West Med one in time, given that the bidding for a third terminal at Algeciras did not get any takers.”