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).
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".
España y Marruecos coordinan la Operación Paso del Estrecho 2023— Ministerio del Interior (@interiorgob) May 17, 2023
🇪🇸🇲🇦La Comisión Mixta Hispano-Marroquí reunida en @interiorgob prevé un despliegue como el de 2022, que movilizó 16.000 agentes de @policia y @guardiacivil
También @dgtes y @proteccioncivil integran el operativo pic.twitter.com/HzfKh3UbBQ
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, José Antonio Rodríguez, 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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€ (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 Transmediterránea, Balearia and FRS. Without vehicle transport, prices are around €30 (352 MAD) per person. As for the return journey from Morocco, the price of transport is similar, although the company Armas Transmediterránea stands out above the rest, offering very competitive prices.