The Mediterranean Sea and its Port System: Risk and Opportunities in a Globally Connected World
Editor's Note: This is chapter from the "Infrastructures and Power in the Middle East and North Africa" report.
Over the past 25 years, the traditional strategic position of the Mediterranean Sea on global maps has been boosted: with a 477 percent growth in the amount of cargo handled by its ports between 1995 and 2018, the Mediterranean region currently serves 20 percent of global shipping (SRM – Studi e Ricerche per il Mezzogiorno, 2019). As of today, there is no alternative route as efficient as the Mediterranean Sea to connect Asia to Europe. Arguably, ensuring this passageway amidst ongoing security tensions in the Persian Gulf will be one of the most pressing security concerns for both continents in the years to come.
The enhanced centrality of the Mediterranean and its ports creates growth opportunities for the region and for the wider European and African markets that it connects: not only in the shipping industry but also in economic sectors that flourish around well-functioning and well-connected infrastructure. Some countries have been savvier than others in recognising this early on: within the region the case of Morocco putting its port system at the core of economic revitalisation is notable while among foreign investors, China is the most actively involved and eager to sustain long-term investments.