After two years and a month of interruption due to the pandemic and the diplomatic crisis between Spain and Morocco, this week the maritime links of the Strait of Gibraltar between the two countries resumed. We should only talk about normal course or full reopening from tomorrow when motorists will have the opportunity to cross the strait in both directions.
Indeed, the links by boat between the two shores were reserved only for goods and people during this week of opening between the Moroccan and Spanish ports of the peninsula, in particular the links between Algeciras and Tarifa with Tangier at first. Other ports should enter the shuttle dance gradually with those mentioned above such as Malaga, Motril and Almería for the North shore and Nador and Al-Hoceima. The decision to open crossings to Sebta and Melilla is conditioned by the land crossing of these two enclaves still not effective. A date is whispered from the half-full side of the glass, that of the end of the holy month of Ramadan. Finally they are two tendencies and that of the empty half in strong doubt. We will see well and more clearly from here to Eid El Fitr.
This chapter of doubt so dear to JP Sartre closed, the followers of the reopening will in no way hide through the opening of the maritime lines between Morocco and Spain the joy of the return to a new normality. It was felt with equal intensity on both sides of the strait, moreover. Especially for Moroccans residing abroad (MRE), and more particularly those in Spain, who find material to get carried away with enthusiasm. And for good reason for the most part, not to say almost the majority, it has been more than two years since they visited their loved ones, or in which case, it is at the cost of an obstacle course in passing for the unconditional or not seasickness by Genoa or Sète or by plane when the opportunity presented itself for those fearing or not the airsickness. For our MREs, traveling by boat to their first country represents more advantages than by air in terms of the mobility they benefit from (availability of the vehicle).
That said, this resumption comes almost two months before Operation Marhaba, and it will certainly serve as a “preventive” exercise to find the related automatisms. The operation as a reminder had allowed more than 3.3 million passengers and more than 760,000 vehicles to cross the strait during the summer before Dame Covid and the closure of the maritime borders. It is one of the most important traffics of goods and people between continents in such a short period. And the shuttle is not a one-way street. Many Moroccans take advantage of summering on the Costa Del Sol and wintering on the Costa Brava.
On the economic side, this is also news with very positive repercussions for the many Spaniards and Moroccans working directly or indirectly in the Strait Crossing operation and, in general, in tourism in particular, a sector hard hit by Dame and Covid and its consequences for the economy of the two countries during the long interruption of ferry traffic. If the transport of goods, despite the negative consequences of the pandemic on the economy – which admittedly have, so to speak, never ceased to operate in the strait – between Spain and Morocco had posted figures , there is no doubt that the opening of shipping lines will have a favorable effect on commercial activity and that with this recovery they will become more than encouraging. It’s an open secret, since 2012, Spain is the first customer and supplier of Morocco after having supplanted France and also the first destination of Spanish investments in Africa.
Spain is also the third largest foreign investor in the Maghreb country. There are currently, according to ICEX data, 662 Spanish companies with at least 10% of the capital of Moroccan companies and 516 Moroccan companies, which are in turn subsidiaries of Spanish companies (owners of more than 50% of their capital). At the forefront is the Tangier-Tetouan-Al Hoceima region, with strong demographic and urban growth and strong values such as the port of Tangier Med or the free zone of the city of Strait.