Pressed by Madrid, Lisbon delays alternative shipping line

Spain would pressure Portugal not to allow the use of its ports, including Portimao, in the Algarve, for Operation Marhaba 2021 (El Paso del Estrecho). To this end, the Spanish government has sent a letter to Lisbon in which it questions the use of its ports for this operation, because it “affects Spanish interests”.

It is claimed that Madrid has warned that “he would not hesitate to obstruct the passage of Portuguese ships in Spanish ports”. The Portuguese authorities have reportedly informed the Moroccans that they “are under pressure from Spain”. Also, Portugal has reportedly asked Morocco for a two-day deadline to settle the dispute with Spain, claiming that the Iberian authorities have turned to the European Union to put pressure on Portugal and end its transit agreement with Spain. Morocco as part of the “Marhaba 2021 ″ operation.

According to the electronic “periodico” El Confidencial, the Spanish Foreign Ministry denies that Lisbon has been pressured to delay the start of the maritime line between Portimao and Tangier. The Spanish executive blames this on the Portuguese government, which has not yet given its agreement to this maritime alternative to the traditional crossing of the strait in Spanish ports. As a reminder, it was agreed between Morocco and Portugal that this line would be operational at the end of June.

The port of Portimao recently published on its site that the link with Tangier depended on other administrative joints awaiting installation, such as (the absent border police and others,) as well as the study of the feasibility conditions of this operation. (two ships / day in round trip) from Portimao to Tangier-Med, still at an evaluation stage hence the delay.

However, this situation of neither refusal nor agreement, should be settled within the week and the two parties should see it more clearly in this operation which should be used for the transport of more than 4000 people and 1000 vehicles on a daily basis. The ambition is to reach 650,000 people and 180,000 vehicles, or one fifth of those registered in Operation Marhaba 2019.

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Still, the Moroccan government confirmed last week that the connection would begin in early July while the Portuguese authorities indicate that the agreement has not yet been closed.

At the weekend, Portuguese Economy Minister Pedro Siza Vieira told Efe that the negotiations were not over: “ We continue to discuss. There is an interest from the government of Morocco and there is an interest from us “. The Minister of the Economy, however, avoided specifying the date on which the route could be operational. “We are studying the reception conditions, and especially the exit, because it is very important for both goods and people,” he added.

Negotiations between Lisbon and Rabat coincide with a striking reduction in Portuguese motorway tolls. In the meantime, Moroccans are in Portimao and hope to see this line open as soon as possible for Tanger Med.

The interrupted traffic between Morocco and Spain (80% of total traffic) has dealt a serious blow to the tourism and maritime transport sector in the southern and eastern regions of Spain. For many Spanish unions, Spain and the European Union must intercede with the Moroccan administration “because we are faced with a problem of outstanding questions of international policy and not of public health“, they estimated, after to have deplored this “unfortunate decision”.

This measure extends the distressing situation to the lives of hundreds of companies and endangers the present and the future of thousands of jobs in the ports of Algeciras, Sebta, Melilla, Almeria, Malaga Tarifa or Motril, in addition to those of Valence. Among them, fleet and land personnel of shipping companies, passenger assistance, port authorities, travel agencies, road transport, mooring companies, hotels, gas stations and so a long list of families who fear for their future », Commented the head of the CCOO. Federation of Citizen Services in Campo de Gibraltar, Miguel Alberto Diaz.

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The union also urged the government of Morocco “ continue to support the implementation of OPE 2021 », With the participation and collaboration of the countries of origin and destination of hundreds of thousands of workers and their families.

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