The European Investment Bank (EIB), the European Union's long-term financing institution, is advancing a loan of 30 million euro (1) to Morocco's Office d'Exploitation des Ports (ODEP) towards financing modernisation of port infrastructure in the country.

ODEP, responsible for operating all of Morocco's commercial ports and most of its fishing ports, handles annual traffic totalling some 48 million tonnes, i.e. 98% of the country's foreign trade.

Made available for a term of 14 years, with a 4-year grace period, this loan is the first to be granted by the EIB to ODEP. It will go towards financing the organisation's 1999-2003 investment programme, helping to boost productivity and capacity so as to meet demand for port facilities in the short term. By enhancing port services and adapting capacity to traffic trends, the project will serve to maintain the sector's strategic position within the local economy.

The project comprises investment in both plant and infrastructure at eight of the country's major ports (Agadir, Casablanca, Jorf Lasfar, Kenitra, Mohammedia, Nador, Safir and Tangier). The plant component relates to harbour equipment for handling general cargo, containers and ore at all eight ports, construction of a pipeline for conveying oil and a back-up facility for unloading tankers at Mohammedia oil terminal. The infrastructure component involves construction of a harbour terminal at the port of Nador and a ro-ro ramp at the eastern terminal in the port of Casablanca along with upgrading of the docks.

The EIB is playing a leading role in implementing the European Union's "Euro-Mediterranean Partnership" and EU priority objectives. Within this framework, the Bank has been given a mandate, covering the years 1997-2000, to provide financing for a total amount of up to 2 310 million euro in support of capital investment in the 12 non-member Mediterranean countries which have signed cooperation and/or association agreements with the EU.In Morocco, the EIB has since 1979 advanced around 1 200 million euro for financing large-scale projects of key importance for the country's economy, such as interconnection of the EU and Moroccan power grids across the Strait of Gibraltar, high-voltage electricity transmission facilities and power supplies to rural areas, upgrading of the trunk and international telephone networks and major water resource management projects (sewerage schemes in coastal towns and cities, irrigation of farmland in the Doukkala plain, etc.). In addition, the EIB has provided support for small and medium-sized enterprises in the productive and cooperative sectors through global loans to commercial banks, with particular emphasis on encouraging joint ventures between Moroccan and European promoters.

(1) EUR 1 = MAD 10.5605, GBP 0.666.