Operation Marhaba- Crossing the Strait: ferry in the Mediterranean, routes and timetables for your journey

Crossing the Strait to Morocco on a ferry is one of the most economical options
Ferry navegando por el río Guadalquivir en la ciudad de Sevilla, España <strong>- PHOTO/PUERTO DE SEVILLA</strong>
Ferry sailing on the Guadalquivir river in the city of Seville, Spain - PHOTO/PUERTO DE SEVILLA
  1. Routes from Spain
  2. Routes from France and Italy

If you are still planning a trip to Morocco, you are probably looking for the best way to get there. One of the most popular ways is to use the ferry routes connecting Europe with Africa. In this article we present the ferry routes operating under Operation Marhaba- Crossing the Strait (OPE), which connects Spain, France and Italy with Morocco.

The Operation is a coordinated plan by maritime and border agencies to control and regulate maritime traffic in the Strait of Gibraltar. This ensures safe and efficient maritime transport, which is very important in summer, when it increases a lot.

In addition, the OPE also helps to prevent human trafficking and smuggling of goods. The analysis has been carried out on the basis of the price of a trip for a family of 2 adults, 2 children and a vehicle, as this is the most common assumption. 

During the OPE, there are many ferry routes connecting Europe with Africa. The constant increase in the number of tourists year after year has forced the major companies to significantly increase their offers, which has led to more competition and lower prices compared to previous years. 

Calendario de la Operación Paso del Estrecho - PHOTO/FMV
Operation Crossing the Strait of Gibraltar. In green the best dates to go, in orange, the dates with probability of delays and queues, and in red the least recommendable dates to go due to crowds of people and high prices - PHOTO/FMV

Despite this, the routes with the highest passenger numbers were those connecting Spain with Morocco, with an annual growth of 12%. However, there are also routes connecting France, Italy and Morocco, the number of which is increasing slightly thanks to the increase in the number of routes from the ports of Marseille in France and Genoa in Italy. In particular, from 2020, the increase is 6% and 9% per year respectively, although they only represent 10% of the total number of travellers arriving in Morocco. 

When choosing a suitable tourist route, first consider: date of travel, price and time. Some of the cheapest and fastest routes connect Spain with Morocco, while others may be slower but cheaper. This is explained by the fact that companies set prices per 100 km. As a result, the shortest routes have the most expensive distance-to-price ratio. 

Punto de venta de billetes para subirse a un ferry a Marruecos cerca del puerto de Algeciras, España 8 de julio de 2022 - REUTERS/JON NAZCA
Point of sale of tickets to board a ferry to Morocco near the port of Algeciras, Spain 8 July 2022 - REUTERS/JON NAZCA

In addition, the quality of the service and the comfort of the ship must be taken into account. It is important to choose the route that best suits your needs and preferences. The choice of cabin or seat, as well as whether or not to take the car, are the conditions that most influence the traveller's decision. 

You should bear in mind that choosing the right route also depends on your plans and objectives. For example, if you are planning a business trip, you may choose the fastest and most efficient route, and if you are planning a holiday trip, you may choose the slowest but most pleasant route. Remember that choosing the right route depends on your needs and preferences. By choosing the right route you can enjoy a safe and pleasant journey. 

Algeciras 27/6/23 - Flota Balearia. Nápoles<strong> - PHOTO/ (c) VICENS GIMENEZ</strong>
Algeciras 27/6/23 - Balearia fleet. Naples - PHOTO/VICENS GIMÉNEZ

Routes from Spain

Operation Crossing the Strait is a coordinated plan between maritime and border authorities to control and regulate maritime traffic in the Strait of Gibraltar. There are several ferry routes connecting Spain with Morocco. There are 11 possible routes, but the 4 routes with the highest passenger traffic will be analysed: the Tangier-Algeciras, Tangier-Almeria, Tangier-Malaga and Nador-Almeria routes. 

Prices may vary depending on the time of year and ticket availability. It is advisable to check the prices and timetables of the companies before making the journey. 

The price of ferries with vehicle transport included varies from 70-90€ (770-990 DH) to 120€ (1.240DH) depending on the shipping company used.  However, if vehicle transport is not required, prices are around €30 (352 MAD) per person. As for the return journey from Morocco, the price of transport is similar, although Africa Morocco Links stands out from the rest, offering very competitive prices. 

In the case of Baleària, the company that offers the most timetables, routes and best prices, ticket prices for 4 people with car included are 245€. The price reduction is due to the application of offers and family packs. In addition, with the Spanish company, children up to the age of 4 travel completely free of charge. 

Baleària is the company that offers more timetables, routes and better prices. Ticket prices for 4 people with car included range from 130€-350€ or 1.430DH-3.850DH. 

  • The Tangier MED-Motril route costs 148€ (1,620DH) and takes 7.5 hours.
  • The Tangier MED-Algeciras route costs 204€ and takes 2 hours.
  • The Nador-Almeria route costs 286€ (3090DH) and takes 5 hours.
  • The Ceuta-Algeciras route costs 133€ (1465DH) and takes 1 hour.
  • The Almeria-Melilla route costs 352€ (3880DH) and takes 7 hours. . 

FRS offers similar routes to Baleària. The operation in Spanish ports is demanding at this time of year, so they offer a wide variety of timetables and competitive prices.

  • The Tangier MED-Algeciras route is priced at 258€ (2,700DH) and has 9 trips per day, with 1 every 3 hours.
  • The Tangier Ville-Tarifa route is priced at 300€ (3,300DH) and costs 8 trips, with a journey time of 1 every 2 hours.
  • The Algeciras-Ceuta route is priced at 186€ (1,986DH) and has 5 boats during the day, with a 2-hour journey.
  • The Gibraltar-Tangier route is priced at 330€ (3,630DH) and has 1 daily service in both directions, with a journey time of 3 hours. 

However, Baleària is more worthwhile for several reasons. Firstly, it offers a wider variety of routes and timetables, giving passengers more choice. Secondly, its prices are more competitive than FRS, especially for longer routes. Finally, Baleària has more experience in the market, which makes it more reliable and safer for passengers. 

Ferry de la compañía Africa Morocco Link (AML), una de las principales navieras marroquíes, en medio del Mediterráneo dirección Marruecos - <a  data-cke-saved-href="https://depositphotos.com/es/?/" href="https://depositphotos.com/es/?/">Depositphotos</a>
Ferry of the company Africa Morocco Link (AML), one of the main Moroccan shipping companies, in the middle of the Mediterranean towards Morocco, Spain - Depositphotos

Africa Morocco Link (AML) is one of the new additions to Operation Marhaba. It offers competitive fares and key routes in the OPE.

  • The Tangier Ville-Tarifa route is priced at 152€ (1,602DH) and takes 3 hours.
  • The Tangier MED-Tarifa route is priced at 160€ (1,700DH) and takes 3 hours.
  • The Tangier MED-Algeciras route costs 125€ (1,450DH) and takes 3 hours.

Armas Transmediterranea, with more than 10 years of experience, offers routes from Almeria and Malaga. Their prices are competitive due to the incompatibility of transporting vehicles on their ferries.

  • The Nador-Almeria route costs 80€ (880DH) and takes 5 hours.
  • The Nador-Motril route costs 42€ (482DH) and takes 7 hours.
  • The Al Hoceima-Motril route is priced at 42€ (482DH) and takes 5 hours. 

This is a list of the main ferry companies that operate some of the 11 routes: Balearia, FRS, GNV, Armas Transmediterránea, La Meridionale y África Morocco Link (AML). 

Routes from France and Italy 

In addition to routes from Spain, there are also several ferry routes connecting France and Italy with Morocco and other North African countries. The routes linking the two countries with the North African nation are operated by two ferry companies: GNV and La Meridionale. 

Cartel publicitario de GNV Ferrys - PHOTO/ATALAYAR
Advertising poster of GNV Ferrys - PHOTO/ATALAYAR

The main routes to Morocco depart from the ports of Sète, Marseille, Genoa and Civitavecchia (Rome). Some of the most popular routes are operated by the Ferries Grandi Navi Veloci and Ferry Tirrenia. From the southern city of Marseille there is a ferry to Tangier Ville and Nador for 1,150€ or 12,150DH with an 18-hour night timetable. The price increase is due to the fact that the cabins are cabins with one bed per person.