With the Crossing of the Straits operation on the horizon, the Moroccan government has given some data on the transit of passengers through the ports of the port authority of Tangier, the most important in the north of the country.
On leaving the Council of Ministers on Thursday 2 June, the Minister Delegate and Government Spokesman, Mustapha Baitas, announced that since the opening of the maritime borders between Spain and Morocco on 18 April 2022, 116,789 passengers have crossed the Strait of Gibraltar from Spain. In addition to these passengers, there are 92,000 vehicles, both passenger and commercial.
On the other hand, the Moroccan government has announced that 101,651 passengers and 23,918 vehicles have crossed by sea to enter Spain. The transit is divided between the ports managed by the Tangier port authority, Tangier City and Tangier-Med.
This means that, according to the data offered by Mustapha Baitas, from 18 April to the beginning of June, 218,440 passengers have transited through the ports of the Tangier port authority.
According to the data offered by the transparency of the Port Authority of the Bay of Algeciras, in the period from April to June 2018, before the pandemic, the traffic between Algeciras and Tangier-Med was 211,335 passengers and 231,123 more between Tarifa and Tangier City. The 2022 figures are still far from reaching those of the years before the pandemic, but they show a trend of improvement since the opening of maritime passenger traffic between the ports of the two shores.
The exchange of passengers between Spanish and Moroccan ports is at its most intense during the summer months, in what is known as Operation Crossing the Strait (OPE), or Marhaba. Since the beginning of the pandemic, and subsequently due to the diplomatic crisis of May 2021, the OPE has ceased to be organised. Due to its magnitude, government authorities are working together to make it as effective as possible.
Following the change of position of Pedro Sánchez's government regarding its relationship with Morocco in March 2022, the ministers agreed to cooperate again to ensure the return of the OPE with the greatest possible guarantees.
The Tangier-Med port authority intends to prepare for this new season of activity with the help of major investments in infrastructure. According to the deputy director general of the Tangier-Med Port Authority, Hassan Abkari, a package of measures worth 150 million Moroccan dirhams (around 15 million euros) is expected. According to the same sources, the number of sentry boxes and vehicle passages in the port has been increased to more than 32.
The Moroccan authorities hope that these measures will make the Marhaba operation much safer and more efficient. On 31 May, Moroccan Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita addressed the House of Representatives to give assurances that this would be the case. Bourita announced that consular services abroad are also preparing additional measures to guide Moroccans returning home for the summer. Reinforcement is planned for Spain, France, Italy, Belgium and the Netherlands.
Tangier-Med has received special attention from the Moroccan government, which has succeeded in making its infrastructure one of the most important in the Mediterranean. According to the World Shipping Council, in 2020, Tangier-Med ranked third in the Mediterranean by volume of industrial container traffic.