Algeria-Mauritania shipping line: The secrets of failure

Great difficulties and obstacles undermine the new maritime route linking Algeria to Mauritania recently inaugurated. The project led by Algiers aims to compete with Morocco on the Mauritanian and West African markets, implicitly the Sahara issue.

Algeria does not have a maritime opening on the Atlantic, it is well known, but the country has been aiming since February to become an important trading partner for Mauritania and the countries of West Africa by maritime.

The appetite for these markets is explained by sought-after competition with Morocco, in particular because of the Sahara issue. Algeria seeks to position itself as a second way in these markets, at a time when the Algiers-Nouakchott road axis has become impassable.

This was seen during the blocking in 2021, for about twenty days, of the Guerguerat road linking Morocco to Mauritania by the Polisario militia (sent by Algeria, editor’s note), thus preventing Mauritania from be supplied with fresh produce. At the same time, Algeria sent 2 planes loaded with these same products to Mauritania.

In February, Algeria renewed its plan to create the 775-kilometre-long Tindouf-Zouerate road, a project that has been dragging on since the 1970s, since Boumediene’s presidency.

But during his last visit to Algeria, Mauritanian President Mohamed Oud Cheikh El Ghazouani made his counterpart Abdelmadjid Tebboune understand that the road in its current state was a source of security problems for Mauritania, and that is what which pushed Algeria to fall back on the sea route.

This is how Algeria announced the inauguration of a commercial maritime route with Mauritania, where ships should also call at Dakar in Senegal. “A shipping line that it apparently wanted to see compete with Morocco in Mauritania and the rest of the other West African countries,” commented the Mauritanian daily Al Anbaa.

Difficulties at all levels but total relentlessness

Except that this Algerian project was as complicated to implement on paper as it was in practice. The general manager of the Algerian national shipping company “Kenan”, Noureddine Koudel, revealed that the company cannot launch a ship without guaranteeing a complete shipment, according to the Mauritanian press. The July trip is still waiting for exporters to show up.

In other words, Algeria is struggling to find goods to send to Mauritania. The boss of the Algerian transport company, indicated in the sense that it was necessary to fill an estimated capacity of 7,500 tons, equivalent to 400 containers.

$Koudel, further indicated that import operations from Mauritania have not been scheduled to date, noting in passing that the possibilities of importing from Mauritania “are few and may be limited to frozen fish and fishmeal.

And to add that “the importation of fish at present is not possible due to the lack of availability of special containers for freezers”.

It thus emerges that this maritime line is doubly penalizing for Algeria, on the one hand because it is not operational for lack of products to export and on the other hand, because the ships will return at a loss since ‘they won’t have any goods to import.

In terms of logistics, these trips scheduled once a month, will be extremely expensive for Algeria, both in terms of fuel but will also have a significant ecological footprint, not to mention that they will not bring much in return.

Each trip will last 25 days, including a week between Algeria and Nouakchott and a day from Nouakchott to Dakar in Senegal, then 8 days for the return, and a week’s stopover in the two African ports.

The Algerian official indicated that the pace of organizing trips through this new line will be subject to the demand of exporters, stressing that it is “difficult to collect them, within specific deadlines”, because of what it described as a “lack of coordination of export operations due to the absence of an authority in charge of this work”.

Despite all these challenges that Algeria faces in its shipping line project, the country persists and is now seeking to find partners capable of filling the containers. This is how the Algerian Prime Minister turned to Italy during a speech at the Algerian-Italian Economic Forum on July 18.

He called on “all the economic operators of the two countries to take up the challenge by raising the bilateral economic partnership to broader horizons”, referring to neighboring African countries.

“Incentives and new directions will allow Italian and Algerian companies to seize all the opportunities offered for the creation of ambitious partnerships, which go beyond the Algerian market, to reach the markets of neighboring countries, especially African countries”, he said. he said, according to comments reported by the Algerian press agency APS.

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