Heavylift / Breakbulk
Maghreb gateway still open
It’s always best to consult an expert if you want to know about developments in a regionally specialised market such as the ones in the Maghreb. Tandem Group founder and owner Habib Bouricha, who has been operating since almost ten years, spoke to the ITJ’s Christian Doepgen about the latest projects and the future potential in Tandem’s Tunisian home market, and those in neighbouring Libya and Algeria.
Mr Bouricha, how did the first quarter go for your group, compared to 2019?
For most of the entities in the Tandem Group – which includes Tandem Logistics, Tandem International and We Logistics – 2019 represented the continuation of the positive market developments in North Africa in 2018. Many invitations to tender for contracts, be they in Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco or even in Libya, are set to be implemented through to the year 2021. We’re excited and are looking forward to many projects in 2020.
What is your appraisal of business opportunities in the difficult Libyan market?
We exported lots off goods to Libya in 2019. Many oil firms, including the big ones, have resumed activities there. Libya is important for Tunisia too, for example because all of the airfreight destined for Tripoli is routed via Tunis. New power stations, refineries and oil wells are in the pipeline. Europe and Russia were working for peace, which is important for progress and will improve the investment climate. The the Sars-CoV-2 virus came along and everything changed...
Will Tunisia remain the key gateway to the Maghreb for international projects?
Tunisia continues to play a very important role in North Africa, on account of its advantageous geographic location, its numerous ports and its daily maritime transport links to and from Europe.
I consider the Zarzis free-trade zone to be one of the key gateways to North Africa, as well as as a hub for assembling heavylift consignments destined to be exported to Algeria or Libya – which is a mere 60 km away, after all. This substantially reduces dispatch costs.
Zarzis is also a suitable warehousing and monitoring centre for groupage and consolidated consignments in the EPC projects segment in Libya. And last but not least, the hub is also becoming ever-more important as a suppliers’ storage point for chemicals for oil and gas industry players. This is a competitive advantage for those who are prepared.
What impact has the downturn had on current projects in the oil and gas industry, for example in Algeria?
Algeria is at the heart of the crisis. It produces almost 1 million barrels of oil a day, through Sonatrach, Africa’s premier oil and gas industry player. Now the Sonatrach Group is planning to cut its budget for 2020 by 50%(!) and postpone many projects. Other undertakings aren’t endangered, such as the die Hassi Messaoud refinery, with a capacity to handle 5 million t a year, and the South West Gas Fields Development Project. Algeria has more than 20 trillion m3 of exploitable shale gas reserves, the third-largest such reservoir in the world.
A team guarantees success is your credo. How have you been able to organise your work during the Covid-19 crisis?
I have to say that I’m really impressed by our teams’ performance and efficiency working from home. I’m proud that our committed employees find strength in their flexibility and their ability to cope with many different situations. This makes us stronger – and simultaneously allows us to concentrate on our digital development too. Today we deliver contracts directly for clients, adhering to the hygiene regulations there as well as in our offices and transport units.
How has business been developing in the light of Tandem’s tenth anniversary?
We’ve been approached by multinational enterprises asking about whether they acquire us, but we refused; we’re too excited by the idea of fulfilling our mission and living up to our motto – ‘We are your North African logistics partner’. We’re going to continue to invest in North Africa and are always on the spot to support major projects in the region. I just hope this virus will let us return to normal work again soon.