Political leaders from both states met in Madrid within the framework of the Spanish-Moroccan Joint Commission

Spain and Morocco finalise the details of Operation Crossing the Strait 2023

PHOTO/TWITTER/@proteccioncivil - Operación Paso del Estrecho 2023
photo_camera PHOTO/TWITTER/@proteccioncivil - Operation Crossing the Strait 2023. Meeting chaired by Isabel Goicoechea Aranguren, under-secretary of the Ministry of the Interior.

Coordinated by the Directorate General of Civil Protection and Emergencies of the Ministry of the Interior, the so-called Operation Crossing the Strait or Operation Marhaba is one of the most important operations in support of Moroccan and Spanish national tourism. Relations between the Madrid and Rabat governments are at their best and arrangements such as this one prove it. The meeting between the Moroccan and Spanish delegations in Madrid mainly served to give impetus to coordination and collaboration in the preparations for Operation Crossing the Strait 2023 (OPE-23). 

Pasajeros abandonan un ferry procedente de Algeciras tras su llegada al puerto marroqu铆 de T谩nger el 15 de junio de 2022. - Miles de marroqu铆es que trabajan y viven en Europa pasan por el Estrecho de Gibraltar cuando regresan a veranear vacaciones en Marruecos
AFP/FADEL SENNA
AFP/FADEL SENNA - Passengers leave a ferry from Algeciras after its arrival in the Moroccan port of Tangier on 15 June 2022. Thousands of Moroccans working and living in Europe pass through the Strait of Gibraltar on their way back to summer holidays in Morocco

After the meeting, some details were finalised in terms of security, as set out in the Special Civil Protection Plan. This plan will cover all possible cases so that citizens wishing to travel to the other side of the Strait of Gibraltar are aware of all the details so that they can enjoy their journey. Isabel Goicoechea, Undersecretary of the Ministry of the Interior, indicated that "with this Special OPE-23 Plan, we have a general framework of coordination and an active channel of communication between the Administrations". 

The meeting on the Spanish side was attended by the Directors General of Civil Protection and Emergencies, Leonardo Marcos, Coordination and Studies of the Secretary of State for Security, Jos茅 Antonio Rodr铆guez, and Traffic, Pere Navarro. Also present was Isabel Goicoechea, who serves as undersecretary of the Ministry of the Interior. Also present were the Directorate General for the Merchant Navy and State Ports, the Ministry of Transport, Mobility and the Urban Agenda, and representatives of other ministerial departments, as well as officials from the Directorate General for the Maghreb, Mediterranean and Middle East of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, European Union and Cooperation. 

On the Moroccan side, Karima Benyaich, Moroccan Ambassador to Spain; Khalid Zerouali, Moroccan Director of Migration and Border Surveillance; senior officials from the Directorate General of National Security and the Royal Gendarmerie; and representatives from various Moroccan ministries. 

Familias esperan junto a sus veh铆culos para subirse a un ferry a Marruecos en el puerto de Algeciras, Espa帽a 8 de julio de 2022
REUTERS/JON NAZCA
REUTERS/JON NAZCA - Families wait next to their vehicles to board a ferry to Morocco at the port of Algeciras, Spain 8 July 2022

The operational measures to be implemented by both nations to ensure the development of the OPE-23, which will be similar to those established last year, have also been addressed by the Joint Commission. The National Police and the Civil Guard formed a security apparatus of 15,995 agents in 2022, according to the Ministry of the Interior. The guidelines being discussed by Spanish and Moroccan civil protection officials will achieve a number of objectives, but they include ensuring the fluidity and safety of transit, assisting travellers, and preventing and protecting public health. 

The meeting also shared the fleet plans that should guarantee a sufficient supply for the daily traffic of passengers and vehicles. In the second phase of OPE-23, additional troops will be mobilised in ports to secure both transit from Europe to Africa and return transit. Finally, both nations have decided to improve and coordinate information exchange channels in order to continue working on issues such as the management of peak days, allowing the exchange of tickets and other maritime crossing conditions. 

Los veh铆culos para subirse a un ferry a Marruecos en el puerto de Algeciras, Espa帽a 8 de julio de 2022
REUTERS/JON NAZCA
REUTERS/JON NAZCA - Vehicles to board a ferry to Morocco at the port of Algeciras, Spain 8 July 2022

For OPE-23, it is expected that the data recorded in 2022 will be far exceeded. Last year a total of 2,912,283 passengers and 695,487 vehicles crossed the Strait of Gibraltar uninterruptedly. Although, from Morocco, the Minister of Transport and Logistics, Mohamed Abdeljalil, put the figure at 3.2 million passengers with more than 550,000 cars moved, highlighting the high activity of the port of Tangier Med. The disparity in figures is due to the fact that Spain does not count those travelling from the various airports. Since 1986, Operation Crossing the Strait has managed the transit to and from North Africa of people of North African descent who travel to North Africa during the summer from various European nations.

Prior to last Wednesday's meeting, another meeting of the State Coordination and Management Committee (CECOD) of Operation Crossing the Strait 2023 took place. Chaired by Isabel Goicoechea, Undersecretary of the Ministry of the Interior, and Leonardo Marcos, Director General of Civil Protection and Emergencies, all the points of the roadmap related to guaranteeing a fluid exchange of information and collaboration were discussed. 

AFP/JORGE GUERRERO - Miles de ciudadanos marroqu铆es que trabajan y viven en Europa atraviesan el Estrecho de Gibraltar cuando regresan para pasar sus vacaciones en Marruecos
AFP/JORGE GUERRERO - Thousands of Moroccan nationals working and living in Europe cross the Strait of Gibraltar on their way back to spend their holidays in Morocco

The OPE 2023 Special Plan, as in previous years, will include a device with a Fleet Plan, provincial coordination plans, plans for each of the participating Ports and road safety plans. The Operation is expected to run from 15 June to 15 September, with the Departure Phase and Return Phase being the usual divisions. The Special Plan will also identify key days with a high concentration of vehicles and passengers. 

Una familia conduce su coche para tomar un ferry a Marruecos en el puerto de Algeciras, Espa帽a 8 de julio de 2022
REUTERS/JON NAZCA
REUTERS/JON NAZCA - A family drives their car to catch a ferry to Morocco at the port of Algeciras, Spain July 8, 2022

According to research carried out by the Atalayar team, prices for travel between 15 June and 15 September have not been affected by the general inflation caused by the post COVID-19 crisis and the ongoing war between Ukraine and Russia. 

Punto de venta de billetes para subirse a un ferry a Marruecos cerca del puerto de Algeciras, Espa帽a 8 de julio de 2022
REUTERS/JON NAZCA
REUTERS/JON NAZCA - Ticket sales point to board a ferry to Morocco near the port of Algeciras, Spain July 8, 2022

Although the average family in Spain is 3 people (father, mother and child), the average length of a holiday is 10 days and the number of cars per family is one; the cost of the ferry with vehicle transport included varies from 70-90鈧 (770-990 MAD) per person on specific dates, such as 30 July, depending on the company used, the lowest to the highest cost being Amas Transmediterr谩nea, Balearia and FRS. Without vehicle transport, prices are around 鈧30 (352 MAD) per person. As for the return journey from Morocco, the price of transport is similar, although the company Armas Transmediterr谩nea stands out above the rest, offering very competitive prices. 

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