Vehicles ahead of the crossing to Africa. / EFE

Vehicle traffic crossing the Strait up almost 50 per cent on 2019 figures

Newly released figures show that 634,606 people and 153,934 vehicles have already passed through the five Andalusian sea ports en route from Europe to Africa this summer

JOSÉ LUIS PIEDRA

A total of 634,606 people and 153,934 vehicles have so far passed through the Andalusian sea ports on their way to Africa, which means 47 per cent more vehicles and 34.2 per cent more travellers 2019, some two years after the Covid pandemic when the border with Morocco was closed.

Every summer, three million people, many of whom hold dual nationality, arrive in Spain from all over Europe to cross the Strait of Gibraltar and travel onwards to Morocco and Algeria in what is known as Operation Crossing the Strait.

The forecast for this year is to reach 3.6 million passengers and 800,000 vehicles. This operation covers the whole summer, including the return between August and September, although one of the high points is recorded in the departure operation, which has one of its crucial periods in the month of July.

The most critical days in terms of influx - to date - were 8, 9 and 10 July, prior to the lamb festival in Morocco, and an avalanche of vehicles is also expected at the end of July and beginning of August, while the peak time for the return will be at the end of August, according to forecasts by the government delegation in Andalucía.

Algeciras and Tarifa are the ports which register the most traffic; with Algeciras accounting for nearly 70 per cent of the total number of vehicles passing through the Andalusian ports.

One of the factors that is helping the planning of the operation is the increase in advance ticket sales for the ships, which has already reached 80 per cent, which makes it possible to know the arrival time of passengers. Also, this year sees the interchangeability of tickets between shipping companies on busy days, so that travellers board the first ferry on arrival, regardless of the shipping company with which they have purchased the ticket.

Another new feature this year is the activation of an information system on the flow of cars at the borders with France at Irún and La Junquera with the cameras of the Directorate-General for Traffic (DGT), which makes it possible to predict the flow of arrivals in advance. The DGT is also deploying a total of 1,768 cameras and 2,428 panels along the route that crosses the peninsula to provide service information to all travellers.