Dutch companies figure prominently in the shortlist, while one consortium is composed of companies from France’s Bouygues Group. Bouygues has been following plans for a new port in Morocco for many years, and in 1999 signed an agreement with the government for the construction and operation of a new container terminal in Tangier, but the contract was subsequently cancelled (MEED 30:4:99).

The new port complex will include a deep water harbour, dredged to 16 metres, which will handle the activities of container transshipments. Industrial free zones in the Tangier-Tetouan region will be set up, targeting mainly export-oriented companies, and a 98-hectare logistic freezone will be established at Oued R’mel for goods and light processing/quality control. Road and railway infrastructure will be built, linking the port to the kingdom’s existing transport network.

The selected contractor will be responsible for the dredging, rock excavation, breakwaters, jetties and hydraulic embankments at the port. Work is due to start in March 2003, and the first phase should be completed by June 2006. A tender for the second phase of work, including the docks, platforms and equipment, will be launched in May 2003 and construction is scheduled for completion in September 2006, with the port ready to begin commercial operations by the start of 2007.

The port project is being managed and promoted by the newly formed Tangier-Mediterranean Special Agency (TMSA), which is responsible for designing studies and awarding contracts and concessions. TMSA will be assisted by an international consultant, which will supervise the construction work. Seven firms have been shortlisted for the contract: Tecsultof Canada, Cowiof Denmark, the US’ Han-Padron Associates, France’s Sogreah, Cullen Grummitt & Roeof Australia and Scott WilsonKirkpatrickand Halcrow, both of the UK.

The prospective consultants are scheduled to visit the port site in early November. The closing date for bids is 2 December and an award will be made 10 days later.

The port will be operated by an international private firm within the framework of a build-operate-transfer (BOT) concession. The company will be responsible for financing and operating the port berths and developing trade in the industrial freezones.

Morocco is responsible for much of the initial investment in the complex and will finance the construction of basic works, out-of-site infrastructure at the port and the transport infrastructure for the facility. King Mohammed VI of Morocco has called for the Hassan II fund to provide $200 million towards the project, and the Abu Dhabi Fund for Development has pledged a further $300 million. The port is considered a strategic priority, essential to the economic and social development in the north of the kingdom, an impoverished region that has often been marginalised in the past.