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Rififi on the Strait of Gibraltar

Rédigé par Francis Mateo, BARCELONA, le Jeudi 12 Avril 2012 - Lu 2769 fois

The “Gateway to the Mediterranean” is still the object of desire for ferry companies.

(photo CC-Olbertz)
(photo CC-Olbertz)
SPAIN / MOROCCO. The Strait of Gibraltar is both a border and a link between Morocco and Spain. Two countries only fifteen kilometres apart (it takes between 30 minutes to an hour to link the two major ports of Tangier and Algeciras), which are also linked with the Spanish enclaves of Melilla and Ceuta in Morocco.

This partly explains the heavy traffic in the “gateway to the Mediterranean”, where over 82,000 ferries cross every year.

Exposed as promiscuity, sometimes leading to intimacy, by the Spanish National Commission for Competition (CNC) at the end of 2011, reprehending six companies for “unlawful agreement on passenger ticket prices (on the Algeciras-Ceuta line). Companies targeted by the CNC are Europa Ferries, Balearia, Euromaroc 2000, Buquebus España, FRS and Acciona Transmediterranea (which received the heaviest fine of €12 million).

The case punctuates a rather negative year for the development of traffic on the Strait of Gibraltar. Notably because of a lacklustre season for Moroccan fruit and vegetable producers.

Opportunities for Barcelona

Paradoxically, hauliers are complaining about the lack of supply on the Tangier and Algeciras route, the main axis of exchange of goods, especially where Comanav, Comarit, IMTC and Balearia ferries operate.

Balearia has given a facelift to the fleet crossing the Strait of Gibraltar (where the average age of vessels is over thirty), offering a ferry that sails at 22 knots, that is, faster than all its competitors. Balearia also boasts a very high-capacity boat, the ‘Martin i Soler’, with 1,800 linear metres, but is reducing the number of round trips, to cope with increases in oil prices. This strategy that does not solve the congestion of lorries on the docks, many finding themselves blocked at customs in the port of Algeciras at the weekend, unable to sail.

All of which opens up opportunities to develop routes from the Port of Barcelona. Because, as well as container trade with North Africa, the Catalan port already offers three weekly short-sea shipping routes to Tangier, operated by Grandi Navi Veloci and the Grimaldi Group. Barcelona wants to go further to position itself as the main port of entry/exit for trade between Europe and Morocco.

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