This month, the Port of Algeciras (Spain) functions as ESPO’s ‘Port of the Month’. Strategically located on the Strait of Gibraltar, the Port of Algeciras can be seen as a leading port in the Mediterranean. Let’s have a closer look at this port!
ESPO: Can you briefly tell us about the Port of Algeciras? What are its main characteristics and challenges?
Algeciras: The strategic location on the Strait of Gibraltar – a crossroads of the world’s main cargo lines with zero diversion on the East-West and North-South maritime routes - together with the excellent natural conditions of its bay are some of the key factors that make the Port of Algeciras the leading port in the Mediterranean and one of the top five ports in the European Union in terms of total cargo throughput. The Bay of Algeciras is also home to the largest industrial complex in Andalusia and the second-largest complex in Spain.
According to recent Eurostat figures, the Port of Algeciras shows the highest growth in total throughput for the period 1997-2014 among the top 10 European ports. In 2015, Algeciras handled 98.2 million tonnes, breaking the 100-million-tonne milestone in the last twelve months.
The constant trend towards ever larger ships and volume concentration places mounting pressure on ports and poses a major challenge for terminals, which have to adapt their infrastructure, facilities and operating models to meet customer demands efficiently.
The challenge of ensuring a high level of competitiveness is set to increase for European ports in the Med, which have to face strong competition from other non-EU ports that have different social and environmental legislative standards.
ESPO: The Port of Algeciras is a leading port in Europe when it comes to the handling of containerised cargo. In addition, last year the port was awarded by The Journal of Commerce Review with a prize for being the 3rd most productive container port in Europe. How did the port become such a productive container port? What are the main challenges?
Algeciras: In 2015, the Port of Algeciras received 28,446 ship calls. During that year, APMT Algeciras and TTI Algeciras served more than 3,000 containerships very efficiently. Over one hundred of these were megaships. This year, we are very proud to have been nominated once again for this Port Productivity Award. It is a result of teamwork between dockers, employees, technicians and managers of these container terminals and SAGEP Stowage Society.
The Port of Algeciras is currently strengthening its presence as a one-stop-shop port, by developing its strategy as a global maritime and logistics hub.
ESPO: The Port of Algeciras is a primary hub on both the Mediterranean and Atlantic Core Networks of the Trans-European Transport Network. How did the port benefit of being part of both these Core Networks?
Algeciras: TEN-T policies play a key role in generating traffic and economic activity and in the optimisation of the current EU logistics chains.
As a hub for the shipping lines that link Asia, America and Africa with Europe, the Port of Algeciras is one of only a few European ports that function as the starting point for two of the TEN-T´s main rail corridors. The rail link that connects Algeciras and Bobadilla/Madrid has thus been declared a double priority. However, there are genuine concerns about the delays in putting the necessary investments in place.
The consolidation of ports as logistic and intermodal hubs is an essential step to take. Port capacity – translated into economies of scale that enable cost reductions – and maritime and land connectivity represent key elements of competitiveness. And it is precisely the land connections - particularly rail connections - that remain the Achilles heel of South-European ports.
ESPO: Could you describe the added value of the port to the city and the wider region?
Algeciras: According to our 2020 Strategic Plan, the Port of Algeciras' mission is to provide a competitive port and logistics offer that creates added value in close cooperation with customers and stakeholders and for the benefit of the regional economy and employment at large.
The most advantageous added value of a port for its surrounding area is its impact on the economy and employment. The Port of Algeciras and the industries nearby generate locally 1 out of 2 jobs and have a wider impact at a regional level too.
The Port Authority of Algeciras Bay (APBA) has also been working together with the cities around its port-maritime area to improve the port-city interface and allow our port's economic activity to benefit to our local neighbours. Our social policies for example, are having a mainstream role as is shown by the solid commitment to implement our Corporate Social Responsibility Plan.
ESPO: How important is the cruise business for your port? What are the main challenges?
Algeciras: Every year, our passenger terminals at Algeciras and Tarifa have the pleasure of serving more than 5 million passengers crossing the Strait of Gibraltar. We are a true maritime bridge between Europe and Africa.
The cruise business is focused on technical calls for ship repairs, ship chandler services, crew changes and finishing touches once cruisers are out of the shipyard. In this sense, Algeciras has a highly skilled port community with more than 120 companies that provide all kinds of services that vessels may require.
In 2017, work on the construction of the future Gran Marina del Estrecho (GME) facilities is set to start in La Linea de la Concepción (located to the north-east side of the Bay). In the mid term, the facilities will be dedicated to medium-size cruisers.
ESPO: To get the goods to the desired destination, a good access between the port and the hinterland is needed. Could you briefly tell us how the port is connected with the hinterland? Can this be further improved?
Algeciras: The Port of Algeciras offers on-demand client rail services and a daily, multi-shipping-line rail service, linking the T-1 rail-port terminal to Madrid Coslada Dry Port. We are currently working on a Rolling Motorway project to develop a new intermodal service for Ro-Ro traffic crossing the Strait of Gibraltar and linking the EU with the North of Africa.
The Port of Algeciras is linked by road to the rest of Spain via the A-381 and A-7 dual-carriageways and the AP-7 and AP-4 toll motorways. The aforementioned rail connection to Madrid via the Algeciras-Bobadilla-Madrid line crosses through Andalusia and connects all our logistics areas.
ESPO: How does the Port of Algeciras estimate the future potential of LNG for the Mediterranean region?
Algeciras: Thanks to EU backing, several operators are currently positioning themselves in this developing market. This has led to an increased interest in the Port of Algeciras as a burgeoning Mediterranean bunker hub, which makes us optimistic about the potential of LNG as marine fuel in the mid term.
In this sense, the Port of Algeciras is analysing its options and is positioning itself within the LNG sector in order to be ready to respond to future demands.
We are now taking part as stakeholders in the CORE LNGas Hive Project, an initiative co-financed by the European Commission through the 2014 Connecting Europe Facility (CEF) Transport Call. This project involves 42 partners and aims to develop a safe, efficient and integrated logistics chain for the supply of LNG as a fuel for the maritime sector in the Iberian Peninsula.
The Algeciras Port’s interest is not only focused on LNG as a marine fuel, but also on LNG for land uses which would contribute to the development of a stable demand at the Port of Algeciras Bay, as well as to a significant improvement in associated port and logistics operations.
ESPO: Could you briefly describe the port’s environmental policies? Does the port monitor its energy consumption? Is the port taking measures to improve its energy efficiency?
Algeciras: Our environmental policy guides the Port of Algeciras towards biodiversity and ecosystem conservation within the scope of its activities and its ability to control them.
The port areas managed by the Port Authority of Algeciras Bay – the Bay of Algeciras and Tarifa – are an important groundswell that generates economic and social development in the area. There are many public and private agencies that share a common space and have different impacts on the environment, being located close to towns and areas with a high environmental value.
Therefore, the port authority has stepped up efforts to protect the environment and minimise natural resource consumption within the port area. For instance, we monitor the consumption of electricity within the port area, specifically the electricity used for air-conditioning, street lights, customer supply and fixed transport systems (and others) in our passenger terminals and administrative buildings. In addition to the above, the Port Authority Investment Plan includes the design and implementation of an intelligent measurement network to obtain exact consumption data. This will provide us with a more accurate indication to plan further measures and prediction systems that may be put in place.
Last year, the Port Authority of Algeciras Bay (APBA) passed its Environmental Management System audit pursuant to the ISO 14001:2004 standard, a certification we have held since 2011. Apart from this, APBA is the proud owner of a PERS (Port Environmental Review System) certificate. PERS is sponsored by the ECOPORTS Foundation and recommended by ESPO.
ESPO: ESPO is a partner of PORTOPIA, an FP7 project that aims to measure port performance. What is the port’s approach for measuring the port’s performance?
Our port authority fully supports all the efforts made by ESPO to help measuring port performance.
In this light, the Port of Algeciras’ performance indicators are published every year in our Annual and Sustainability Reports. A Service Quality Perception Index is also regularly carried out. Our financial accounts are audited every year by external auditors and our mission statement is publicly available in the 2020 Strategic Plan, published in 2015.
Finally, we would like to conclude by highlighting the important role of technological modernisation and innovation at the Port of Algeciras. They are strategic objectives that will increase competitiveness in the port community as a whole; these advances will allow us all to achieve operational excellence and increase service quality at our port.
Our “Technological Modernization & Innovation Program” is set for more improvements as we advance towards an “Intelligent Port”, underlining our main lines of work, such as the simulation and optimisation of port procedures, big data and the internet of ideas, cybersecurity and system integration within our port community, using PCDM (Port Collaborative Decision-Making) as a platform where all our port community members can openly take part and help improve coordination. We all work with the firm intention to develop APBA as a world benchmark for port logistics technology and innovation by 2020.