The global shipping and marine industry is going through some critical developments, as demand for shipment of goods from one part of the world to the other rises and competition increases amongst port operators and investors to provide cost-effective solutions. While the latest generation of new ‘Panamax’ vessels are now drawing on the benefits of the Panama Canal expansion project officially completed just last year – significantly reducing sailing times between North America and Asia – in North Africa, another significant project was also mounted on the drawing board last year by port operator APM Terminals: the development of a new trans-shipment terminal at Tangier in Morocco, with an annual capacity of 5 million TEUs. A common element for both developments is the role and services provided by Hill International.
The company provided construction risk services for expansion of the 102-year old Panama Canal expansion and now work is underway for the APM Terminals MedPort Tangier, which will become operational in 2019. Besides serving multiple trades, the terminal will also be the first such automated facility in Africa. In late 2016, Hill announced the award of a contract by APM Terminals MedPort Tangier to provide project management and supervision engineering services during the construction of the new container terminal. The two-year contract is valued at $6 million to $7.4 million, said Waleed Abdel Fattah, adding the Tangier-Med Port complex is one of the largest ports in Africa. “The complex is built on the Straits of Gibraltar – a central artery of global shipping with over 200 vessels a day passing through and carrying on trade between Asia, Europe, Africa and the Americas. Our team will deliver on all expectations for this strategic new terminal project,” he said.
Abdel Fattah’s comments came after the APM Terminals announcement in March 2016 when it signed a 30-year concession agreement with Tangier Med Special Agency (TMSA). The new agreement will complement operations at the existing terminal, which started operations in 2007 and in 2015 had handled 1.7 million TEUs of cargo. Under the deal, APM Terminals was named as the operator of a new container trans-shipment terminal at the Tangier Med 2 port complex. Maersk Line will be an important customer of the new terminal, APM said in a news release then, highlighting Tangeir-Med as the second-busiest container port on the African continent after Port Said, Egypt.
The new APM Terminals MedPort Tangier terminal will increase the port’s total annual throughput capacity to over 9 million TEUs and will entail an investment of nearly Euro 758 million ($805 million). “The MedPort Tangier development will feature state of the art technology and have up to 2,000 meters of quay length and also feature technology pioneered at the APM Terminals Maasvlakte II Rotterdam terminal which opened in 2015,” Abdel Fattah said.
APM Terminals will create a new organization in Tangier, adding a large number of new jobs and be responsible for completion of the terminal yard, surface, buildings, container handling equipment and integrated automated systems. The quay wall construction and site reclamation for the first 1,200 meters has been completed by the Tangier Med Port Authority, which is part of TMSA, he said. “APM Terminals has been in Morocco since our partnership with the AKWA Group and the start up of port operations in July 2007. The latest announcement shows our strong commitment to investing in trade and improving supply chains in the Western Mediterranean market,” APM Terminals CEO Kim Fejfer said in a statement.
Role of new MedPort Tangier terminal
While African ports currently account for only 4.5% of global port throughput (including trans-shipment cargoes), the United Nations 2015 World Population Prospects Report projects that more than half of the world’s population growth between 2015 and 2050 will occur in Africa, with Africa’s population more than doubling from 1.1 billion to 2.4 billion over the next 35 years. This would be translate into significant investment in port and transportation infrastructure to meet the anticipated needs of a growing population and the economy.
“The new trans-shipment terminal at Tangier will be in line with that forecast and we take a sense of pride to be a part of that process. The facility will be capable of handling ULCS [ultra-large container ships] of capacity up to 20,000 TEU and the terminal will employ both conventional and fully-automated operations and a truck gate system,” Abdel Fattah said. For its part, in October APM Terminals announced that it had placed orders for 12 remote-controlled ship-to-shore (STS) cranes and 32 automated rail-mounted gantry cranes (ARMGs). The STS cranes and the ARMGs will be delivered by end 2017 and will showcase the deployment of state-of-the-art technology for the new terminal project.
Pursuing opportunities globally in infrastructure development is high on the agenda of Hill International. Last year, the company was awarded a series of rail and transportation projects in the US like the Gateway Program in New York and New Jersey and the East Link Light Rail Extension project near Settle. Now that horizon has been increased with the MedPort Tangier development for APM Terminals, with the expectations of others to follow soon.
By Ashok Dutta