Melilla, Spain (PortSEurope) December 7, 2018 – The hardening of the commercial rows between Morocco and Spain has sunk the activity of the port of Melilla. The restrictions on the exit of goods imposed by the Spanish government in May last year and the decision of Rabat to close its customs office in the summer to favour the port of Nador have limited the activity of one of the most important ports in Spain. In this context, the stowage entrepreneurs have held several meetings with the Spanish government to ask it to resolve a situation that “causes the loss of hundreds of jobs”.
The first contacts took place in September, when employers association Anesco, got in touch with the president of national ports agency Puertos del Estado, María Ornella, to express their concerns. On October 31, there was a meeting in which representatives of Puertos del Estado guaranteed a series of actions to the association. Among them, a report in which Puertos del Estado recognises the impact that these “administrative measures” are having on Melilla port. A document that has been transferred to the Ministry of Public Works.
In addition, Puertos del Estado has contacted the central government delegate in Melilla to discuss possible actions against the commercial blockade. This is what the agency has told the employers, which this week had sent a new letter to Puertos del Estado asking about the initiatives carried out so far.
Meanwhile, the figures show a paralysis. Between January and October, Melilla port handled 149,024 tonnes of cargo, which is 38.59% less than last year. In addition, 19,260 containers were serviced, 39.09% less than in the first ten months of 2017.
The entrepreneurs of the stowage sector predict that the decline will quicken during the last two months of the year. This is what the president of the employers’ association of longshoremen of Melilla, José Luis Martínez Lázaro, believes, that “the main problem” of the port is the change of the management of the border with Morocco that the government launched in mid-2017, which implies limitations such as the reduction of the border schedules and of the luggage that Moroccans who return to their country from the autonomous city can transport. According to Lázaro, this measure has led to “arbitrary controls” that are penalising sales.
The closure of the Moroccan customs office next to the port of Melilla is also a problem. The measure, articulated to boost the activity of the port of Nador, was taken unilaterally by Rabat and prevents the passage of containers arriving in the country from the autonomous city. It sends to the neighboring country approximately 70% of the cargo it receives in its port. Lázaro considers that the restriction has “caused a significant loss” for the sector, but still stresses that the restructuring of the border imposed by the Spanish government is more damaging.
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