Nador West Med
Artist's impression (Photo: Marsa Maroc)

Moroccan container terminal operator Marsa Maroc has signed the concession agreement to operate the first phase of the under-development Nador West port in the east of the country.

As recently reported in The Loadstar, the Red Sea crisis-induced congestion spike in the West Mediterranean has seen carriers scrambling for any available terminal capacity in the region to tranship boxes bound for East Med destinations.

This led to fevered speculation that the concession for the greenfield site at Nador would be the subject of fierce bidding by shipping lines eager to establish their long-term future in the region – particularly state-owned Chinese shipping line Cosco, which has seen its Mediterranean hub of Piraeus blindsided by the widespread vessel diversions.

It would appear, however, that the Moroccan authorities were equally keen to see domestic operators reap the benefits of its geographic competitive advantage.

“With four container terminals now in operation at the almost fully built-out Tanger Med port, today the largest container terminal in the Mediterranean, Morocco is trying to replicate Tanger’s success story with a second West Med hub, some 250 km further east,” Alphaliner analysts wrote this week.

With construction of the Nador West Med Eastern Container Terminal’s breakwater and quay infrastructure now largely completed, the 25-year concession agreement between port authority and Marsa Maroc will see the operator develop it into a 3.4m teu a year capacity facility.

The terminal will feature 1,520 metres of quay, a draught of 18 metres and 70ha of yard, and will ultimately be equipped with 15 ship-to-shore cranes and 45 rubber-tyred gantry cranes in the yard.

The first phase is scheduled for commissioning in 2027, toward which Marsa Maroc will inject around €200m.

Alongside two container terminals in Casablanca, Marsa Maroc is also partner in the Tangier Med port complex, where it operates Container Terminal 3 in partnership with Hapag Lloyd and sister terminal operators Eurogate and Contship Italia.

That facility is already at its full capacity, of 1.5m teu, just three years after its commissioning, the company said.

It is unknown whether it intends to replicate the partner approach with at Nador West. It said: “By positioning itself as the first operator at the Nador West Med port complex, Marsa Maroc consolidates its leadership in the national port market, and strengthens its position in the Mediterranean transhipment segment, by increasing its container handling capacity to 6.5m teu, with nearly 5m teu dedicated to transhipment.”

At this month’s TOC Europe 24 event in Rotterdam, Tanger Med Port Authority MD Hassan Abkari told delegates Tanger had been handling unprecedented volumes in recent weeks.

“We have noticed recently that vessels from Asia have been arriving with a draught of over 17.4 metres, implying they are completely loaded – we didn’t expect to see that for another 10 years.

“A lot of vessels are coming fully packed with containers because they are not calling at any ports before us,” he explained, adding that new capacity in the region was urgently required.

Listed on the Casablanca Stock Exchange, Marsa Maroc has a market cap of $2.3bn, according to Capital Market IQ, while the state owns 25% of the company. Institutional investors and corporates hold around 45% and the remaining 30% is free float.

Meanwhile, for disappointed bidders, there is a smaller Nador West Med Western Container Terminal project set to follow.

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