Cablegate: Cma-Cgm Plans Direct Tanger Med-New York Shipping
DE RUEHRB #0671/01 2001528
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 181528Z JUL 08
FM AMEMBASSY RABAT
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 8864
INFO RUCNMGH/MAGHREB COLLECTIVE
RHMFIUU/DEPT OF HOMELAND SECURITY WASHINGTON DC
UNCLAS RABAT 000671
USDOC FOR HQ/USFCS/USDOC/CS DG ISRAEL HERNANDEZ, USDOC FOR
3131/USFCS/OIO/RD/ANESA/CREED/GLITMAN/STAUHID I, USDOC FOR
ITA/USDOC/MAC/DAS HOLLY VINEYARD
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ECON ETRD EWWT MO
SUBJECT: CMA-CGM PLANS DIRECT TANGER MED-NEW YORK SHIPPING
LINE FROM OCTOBER
Sensitive but Unclassified - not for internet distribution.
1. (SBU) Summary: Officials at CMA-CGM Shipping lines confirm
that they will launch the first regularly scheduled service
between the United States and Morocco at the end of October.
The company will drop Lisbon from its weekly "Amerigo"
service and will instead stop in Tanger Med both on its east
and westbound sailings. The line will enable Moroccan
exports to arrive in the U.S. in eight and a half days, as
opposed to the nearly 45 days they can currently spend in
transit while being transhipped through European ports.
CMA-CGM officials note, however, that the vast bulk of cargo
they will carry will be transhipped from other ports: both
they and their competitors at Maersk lines agree that
Moroccan cargo is currently insufficient to support a
service, as aside from seasonal reefer cargoes of fresh
fruits and other agricultural products, significant volumes
are not there. End Summary.
2. (SBU) CMA-CGM Director General Frank Torfs and Sales
Manager Mohamed El Assad confirmed to Econ Counselor on July
17 that the company had made a decision earlier this week to
initiate a weekly service to the United States from the new
container port at Tanger Med. The service will begin at the
end of October in order to coincide with the start of
Morocco's fruit export season. The service, the CMA
officials said, will call at Tanger Med instead of Lisbon on
both its east and westbound sailings. Starting in Malta, the
line will call in Italy, France and Spain, before stopping in
Tanger Med on day nine. It will then sail directly for New
York, arriving on day 17, and then continue on to Norfolk,
Savannah and Miami, before returning to Tanger Med and Malta.
Torfs noted that the company will actually begin operations
in Tanger Med at the end of August, but will start with a
feeder service that will take cargo to Malta to join the line
3. (SBU) Torfs noted that the service will have a capacity of
850 forty foot containers per week. Moroccan origin products
will likely be principally agricultural, he speculated, as
there is great interest from Agadir growers. He thus
anticipates that during the season that the service may carry
50-60 40 foot reefers of citrus products. Growers would load
in Agadir in late afternoon, he said, and then ship their
cargo by road overnight to Tanger Med to meet the ship.
(Note: the actual time benefit to exporters will be less than
the headline nine day transit: such products require 16 days
uninterrupted cold storage to meet U.S. requirements, and so
will be warehoused on arrival until that threshold is
reached. End Note.) Torfs judged that there is little other
potential volume from Moroccan exports, as "textile is not in
quantity" nor are other products. He stressed, however, that
"we can't just rely on historical figures," as the service
will so dramatically cut transit times (from 45 to 8.5 days).
"We have underestimated the impact of Tanger Med," he added,
and he sees even more potential on the return leg, as
evidenced by the increasing number of reefer cargoes coming
eastbound from North America.
4. (SBU) Torfs also predicted that much cargo for Rabat and
points north that currently transits through Casablanca will
be redirected to Tanger Med. Congestion at the Casablanca
Port has improved over the "catastropic" situation that
characterized last year, but it remains difficult, and
companies may be willing to pay the added cost to use the
more modern Tanger facility.
5. (SBU) For their part, CMA-CGM's competitors at Maersk
lines indicate that they have no plans to open a direct line
to North America from Tanger Med, though they stress that
shipping plans are continually reevaluated and could change
on short notice. While the company operates lines to Tanger
Med from virtually every other continent, including South
America, its North American lines will remain based at the
Spanish port of Algeciras, 14 miles from Tanger Med. Feeder
lines ferry cargo between the two ports. Maersk Director
General Denedis Franck noted that while there has been
political pressure for a U.S. line to support the free trade
agreement, "from a business point of view it is not doable."
The market, he added, "is far from being close to affording a
line, as the required volumes simply aren't there."
6. (SBU) Comment: Shipping industry comments about the
weakness in Morocco's export volumes are borne out by the
continued degradation in Morocco's trade balance, with
exports covering a diminishing share of the country's
burgeoning imports. New business may nonetheless emerge with
the faster turnaround offered by the planned New York
service, though Torfs is likely right that more will emerge
initially on the eastbound leg. Torfs asked Embassy
assistance in ensuring that the company meets U.S. security
and other requirements and we will work with DHS and other
appropriate agencies to ensure that necessary arrangements
are in place to assure a smooth launch to the service in
October. End Comment.
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