The Port of Tarragona is one of the most relevant maritime infrastructures in Southern Europe. Its excellent land-based connections (by train and highway) with the rest of the Iberian Peninsula and northern Europe combined with an intermodal terminal near the Port represent two significant strengths of a Port currently entering a growth phase.
The President of the Port of Tarragona, Josep Maria Cruset, explains the details of an investment plan that will allocate 160 million euros over 4 years to expand the logistics activity area, strengthen chemical sector activity, and bolster the connection of the Port to the centre of the Iberian Peninsula. All these actions will be favoured by the upcoming launch of the Mediterranean Rail Corridor.
What are the Port of Tarragona’s key sectors?
The Port of Tarragona has very powerful and structural traffic: liquid bulk and solid bulk. Liquids are closely linked to the petrochemical sector, from crude oil to all petroleum derivatives, and solid bulk is tied to cereals, largely for the livestock sector.
Chemicals is one of Tarragona’s strong points. Why do foreign companies invest here?
Tarragona’s petrochemical sector is the most powerful in Southern Europe. This creates an economy of scale, because the chemical industry requires synergies between companies. A by-product of a chemical process can be used as a raw material in another process.
In Tarragona there is a large concentration of chemical companies, the ChemMed cluster, which attracts projects and opportunities for other companies because there is more supply of by-products (high pressure steam, gas to be burned, distilled water, etc.) and services. There is a whole network of powerful auxiliary services available to those who want to invest here.
What are the latest foreign company investments in the Port of Tarragona?
Vopak Terquimsa has recently launched a major investment in chemical products storage at the chemical quay; Tepsa, in the same sector, has also recently invested there. Euroports, a paper pulp company, has chosen Tarragona as the only port in Spain where it operates. Therefore, we enjoy highly specialized investments in those sectors where we are class-leading.
What are the most powerful maritime routes?
The traffic related to the chemical sector comes from Russia, the Middle East, Africa, the United States and the Gulf area. And cereal traffic (about 5.5 million tonnes per year) comes from Russia, Ukraine and Brazil.
The Port of Tarragona has launched a 2019-2022 Investment Plan. What are the goals of this plan?
It is a 4-year investment plan of over 160 million euros. Our goal is to increase the Port’s productivity and significantly increase the nearly 34 million tons that it currently moves.
The plan contemplates four actions: the extension of the chemical quay, which is already finished; the construction of a new Logistics Activities Zone, the implementation of the Puerto Centro terminal in the centre of the Iberian Peninsula and the construction of a new cruise terminal.
What investments have been performed in the chemical quay?
We have recently carried out an 18-hectare enlargement, doubling the space of the previous quay. We have invested 80 million euros. In terms of storage capacity, we will grow from 800,000 cubic metres to more than 1.5 million cubic metres.
What are the long-term objectives of this expansion?
We want to attract traffic from the chemical sector’s global flows and turn the Port of Tarragona into a regional hub that supplies the Mediterranean area. So far, the most important European petrochemical hub has been Amsterdam-Rotterdam-Antwerp, known as the ARA hub: historically, many of the chemical flows came from America and part of the Gulf, and, therefore, the most logical place to enter Europe was the ARA hub. In recent years, however, much of the industry has gone to Middle East, where it has built large refineries.
Therefore, world flows have changed, and now all the chemical products coming from Middle East pass through the Strait of Gibraltar, go to the ARA hub where it is stored, and is transported again with smaller vessels to be consumed in the Mediterranean area. The Port of Tarragona wants to be competitive so that those who move this cargo can deposit it in our port; a saving of up to 8 navigation days that will have a huge impact on the economy and the environment.
When the Mediterranean Rail Corridor is finished, we will be able to attract these 7-8 million containers now passing in front of the Port doing all these extra days at sea and we will be able to transport them to Central and Northern Europe.
What is the project of the new Logistics Activities Zone?
It is one of the strategic projects of the Port of Tarragona. We have invested 30 million euros in the construction of 100 hectares: it is a unique offer of logistics space in Catalonia. We can accommodate any logistics activity that is linked to maritime traffic, with the advantage that land prices are very competitive.
The definition of the site offer is based on the user's demand. The Port can build from a 166,000 square metre warehouse (equivalent to 16 football fields), to the smallest warehouse of 8,000 square meters.
The great advantage of the Logistics Activities Zone is its interconnectivity: the railway area enters the Logistics Zone so that companies can load merchandise directly onto trains, not to mention having the pier nearby and the AP7 and A7 motorway and highway, respectively. As of November 2019, it will be commercially available.
Will the Port carry out any other projects to promote goods transit between the interior of the Iberian mainland?
Yes. Tarragona is not just a point of passage on the Mediterranean Rail Corridor, but a node in the corridor that goes to the centre of the Iberian mainland. Therefore, we are at a key point where merchandise can be transported both to the North and South and to the centre of Spain.
That is why the Port will invest 20 million euros in the construction of a new terminal called Puerto Centro on land acquired in the centre of Spain, in Guadalajara. Construction will start at the beginning of 2020. We will take advantage of the Henares railway corridor (where all merchandise enters Madrid and the central zone of the peninsula) to link it to the entrance and exit of merchandise for the Port of Tarragona. This way the Port will increase its hinterland - the area that is served both for imports and for exports.
Tarragona has also grown a lot in recent years in the number of cruise passengers. Are you planning to continue promoting this growth?
This year, 100,000 cruise passengers have passed through Tarragona, which is a very significant figure for Tarragona and one that has been increasing exponentially over recent years. Right now, we receive mainly Italian, French and German tourists, and 93% of them stay in the province of Tarragona. Therefore, we are concentrating efforts in the cruise sector given that its economic impact stays in the region.
We are working on a new terminal that will have 4 hectares of docking space and we hope that it will be operational in 2021. We are also collaborating with the Port of Barcelona to divert to Tarragona those cruises ships that they are unable to assume.
Which sectors will experience most growth in the future?
The Port of Tarragona has become a hub in the paper pulp sector. At present, it is the third most important port in the Mediterranean in paper pulp traffic, transporting 600,000 tonnes per year, a traffic that did not exist a few years ago.
Such is its importance that Tarragona hosted the PPI Transport Symposium this September, the most important international congress in the paper industry. This was the first time that it was hosted in the Iberian Peninsula and it placed us on the world map.
Transportation of vehicles is also important for the Port of Tarragona: the flow has tripled over the last four years. While in 2014 the figure stood at some 60,000 vehicles, in 2018 we achieved a movement of around 200,000 vehicles. Now we are the 6th port in volume of vehicles within the Spanish port system, even though there are no factories nearby.