The port of Ceuta, one of the two Spanish autonomous cities, together with Melilla, located in North Africa, is the country’s fourth busiest port in terms of regular passenger traffic: 2.1 million passengers and nearly half a million vehicles per year, according to 2019 figures from the Ceuta Port Authority. Due to its peculiar geography –with a surface area of only 19 km2 and its location on the Almina peninsula, between the Mediterranean and the Atlantic– the sea provides the primary means of connection with the rest of Spain and supplies for the city, which receives all kinds of goods and basic supplies, such as building materials, fuel and even water. The port is also a transit area for cross-border goods traffic between Morocco and Europe.

The terminal is the first and last thing that passengers arriving or leaving by sea will see, which makes it an emblematic building for the city

Although the city has had a heliport belonging to the Aena network since 2004, where regular flights to Melilla, Algeciras and Málaga operate, the high-speed ferry is the main means of passenger transport. Three shipping companies –Armas, FRS and Balearia– currently offer numerous daily connections for passengers and vehicles between Ceuta and Algeciras.

The port has two breakwaters, measuring 1,500 metres and 500 metres long, known as the Poniente and Levante docks, respectively. Inside the harbour there are two main quays: perpendicular to the coast, the Spain quay, where the control tower is located and where the first passenger terminal was built, and the Cañonero Dato quay, where the maritime station was moved in the 1970s and four ferry berths were built. The port also has a marina and fishing harbour, as well as a dry dock.

Location of the maritime terminal of the port of Ceuta and operations area. / IMAGE_INECO

The terminal is therefore the first and last thing that passengers see when they arrive or leave by sea, which makes it an emblematic building for the city, barely one kilometre from the centre and four kilometres from the Moroccan border. Although various reforms and works have been carried out over the years, the passage of time, the increase in maritime traffic, changes in infrastructure legislation and, above all, the challenge of reinforcing security in the face of global risks such as terrorism, among others, have made it necessary to remodel and expand the facilities.

As a result, in 2017, the Ceuta Port Authority commissioned a feasibility study for the new terminal, which produced three main conclusions: the need to double the surface area, the need for a new pre-boarding hall and the need to separate the flows of embarking and disembarking passengers –which is not currently the case– for security reasons. In 2019, it contracted Ineco to study the possible alternatives and draft the preliminary design and subsequent construction project for the new maritime station, including car parks and accesses, which was completed in October 2020.

Existing facilities

The existing terminal has an estimated maximum traffic capacity of four million passengers and one million vehicles. In addition to the passenger building, it has four berths for ships, RO-RO ramps for loading and unloading cars and lorries, and an esplanade with a capacity for 900 vehicles, with separate boarding and disembarking areas. Between these two areas are the ticket and police control facilities, and at the end of the disembarking area, the Guardia Civil’s tax service checkpoint, which carries out customs inspections.

The existing passenger terminal is a T-shaped building with two floors, each covering approximately 2,500 m2. The rear façade faces the quay, where the fixed and mobile boarding bridges (fingers) and the road for vehicles are located, while the main façade gives access to an open space with landscaped areas and parking for coaches. On one side are the taxi stand and a public car park, and on the other, the road for vehicle boarding and a private car park, which will be moved, since the new terminal planned by Ineco will be located on this plot.

The new terminal

The project includes the construction of a new passenger building adjacent to the existing one, improvements to two of the berths and their access galleries (the other two are not included since they have recently been renovated) and the reorganisation and arrangement of car parks and accesses. The estimated completion time for the works is 24 months.


In terms of equipment, modern systems for water and electricity supply, sanitation, fire protection, security and CCTV and telecommunications will be installed.

The building will connect with the existing terminal on the inside at several points, and on the outside, a large canopy more than 46 metres long will be installed to provide aesthetic unity to the complex and give travellers a sheltered route to the taxi stand. From the land side, the main entrance is located on the southeast façade, near the existing entrance. There will also be three other secondary accesses, for restricted use and for use as emergency exits.

The new maritime station is designed to completely separate incoming and outgoing passenger flows, a key security aspect

From a functional point of view, the new maritime station is designed to completely separate incoming and outgoing passenger flows, a key security aspect. This is the case with the layout of the two floors of the building: the ground floor opens onto a large lobby that divides the terminal into two distinct areas: on the one hand, a public space, with a double-height ceiling, which houses the access to the upper floor, the check-in, areas, restrooms and commercial area; and on the other, a large area for restricted use, distributed around an internal courtyard that provides light and ventilation for the space, while remaining out of travellers’ sight. This area contains the new premises for the National Police and Guardia Civil, installation rooms and other facilities.

The upper floor connects with the access galleries to the ship berths. It contains the pre-boarding and boarding lounges, which include an authorities’ lounge, and between the two, the passenger control area, which is connected to the security forces’ offices on the lower floor and is equipped with baggage scanners, document control points and search and X-ray rooms.

Meanwhile, disembarking passengers will have direct access from the gangways to the ground floor concourse (via the shopping area) and from there to the outside. The entire floor is therefore configured in such a way that passenger flows never cross. Three stairwells and two lift shafts are planned, which are distributed so as to allow independent access to the different areas of the terminal.

The construction project also includes improvements to berths and access galleries 3 and 4, which will consist mainly of replacing flooring and suspended ceilings, new lighting, removal of elements that are no longer in use, such as luggage belts and old HVAC equipment, to leave more free space in the corridors, the renovation of enclosures and metal structures and installation of seating and rest areas. Accessibility will also be improved with tactile-visual paving and double handrails with identification plaques in Braille on the ramps connecting the walkway to the boarding area. In terms of urban development and parking, pedestrian and vehicle flows will be rearranged and prioritised so that there are no intersections. There are two public car parks for about 280 vehicles, drop-off zones and taxi stands for 25 vehicles, seven bus bays, an area for emergency vehicles and an area for loading and unloading. The private car park, with 48 parking spaces, will be located adjacent to the south façade.

Architecture: Interacting volumes

The new Ceuta maritime station has been designed as a volumetric interaction between superimposed boxes that shape the space and the interior layout of the building. The new terminal is spread over two floors covering approximately 3,200 m2, separating public/private flows and needs, with the visuals between the two floors playing an important role, allowing a 360° view of the interior of the terminal.

Its structural layout replicates the modular grid of the existing building, adapting to the needs of large numbers of travellers and large, unobstructed spaces. The building is set on a base of ceramic slabs, thus blending in with the existing terminal. Above the base, a lantern-like volume stands out as a visual landmark, created by a curtain wall façade and a second skin of blue ceramic slats, which acts as a focal point that regulates the light that enters the building. The play of protruding volumes and the vandal-proof design of the façade make the building more secure.

A profitable project for society

Ineco has carried out an assessment to determine the socio-economic benefits of the new maritime terminal.

By Carmen Araújo, bachelor in Economic Sciences (Ineco)


The cost-benefit analysis or socio-economic evaluation is a technique that enables the net contribution of the project to the overall welfare of society as a whole to be measured in monetary terms. In order to determine the net social benefit of the new maritime terminal in the port of Ceuta, the flow of benefits and costs generated over a period of analysis has been compared with a baseline situation (without the project), which is taken as the basis for the analysis.

With the increased capacity and floor space of the new building, both the functionality and security of the terminal are expected to be improved. Although the project aims to increase the port of Ceuta’s passenger handling capacity, it is not expected to have a significant effect in terms of attracting or generating traffic. Therefore, one of the main assumptions is that the main people who will be affected by the project are the users of the port, mainly the passengers on the Ceuta-Algeciras line.


The results obtained indicate positive final results for the socio-economic evaluation, even if they are based on conservative assumptions. The benefits resulting from the time savings in boarding are high enough to offset the increased operating costs and pay for the initial investment required. From a socio-economic point of view, an IRR (Internal Rate of Return) higher than the discount rate of 3.0% has been obtained, therefore, it offers a positive NPV (Net Present Value), which ensures the profitability of the project and confirms its timing.

The port: the lungs of Ceuta

Por Carlos Delgado, ingeniero de caminos (Ineco)

The port of Ceuta plays an essential role in guaranteeing passenger mobility and goods supplies for the autonomous city. In particular, the more than 2.1 million passengers that the port facilities handled in 2019 make it the fourth largest volume of passengers in terms of transport in the state-owned port system as a whole. Additionally, the Ceuta Port Authority handles almost 450,000 vehicles in transport regime and more than 1.7 million tonnes (excluding fishing, provisioning and inland traffic.

Focussing on passenger mobility, nearly all the passengers handled by the port of Ceuta are travelling between the autonomous city and the port of Algeciras. This shipping line, which is one of the 13 cabotage shipping lines designated as being of public interest, is operated by three shipping companies (Balearia, Transmediterránea/Armas and FRS) with a combined service of approximately 18 daily crossings, generally using HSC (high-speed craft, colloquially known as fast ferries).

It is also worth highlighting the strong seasonal component of passenger demand during the summer months, largely due to Operation Crossing the Strait. The large influx of citizens of North African origin residing in Europe who take advantage of their holidays to visit their countries of origin in North Africa, means that the total monthly demand on the line triples during the months of July and August for the Algeciras-Ceuta direction and in August and September for the opposite direction. Furthermore, this phenomenon also changes the distribution between Ceuta resident passengers (who receive a discount on the ticket price) and non-residents, as non-resident passengers went from being approximately 50% in the non-summer months to registering an average participation of close to 70% in July, August and September.

The importance of the Port of Ceuta in the mobility, accessibility and territorial cohesion of the autonomous city plays an even greater role since it is the main alternative for connection with the Spanish mainland. Although Ceuta has had a heliport belonging to the Aena network since 2004, the volume of passengers transported was approximately 33,000 people in 2019 (with services connecting Ceuta with the cities of Algeciras and Málaga), which barely represents 1.6% of the total number of passengers transported by sea.

On the other hand, of the 1.7 million tonnes managed by the Port Authority of Ceuta, approximately 355,000 tonnes (more than 20%) are transported on the public interest shipping line that connects the autonomous city with Algeciras. The seasonal component that can be observed in passenger transport is not evident in the freight segment, although flows are usually quite unbalanced as loaded lorries arrive in Ceuta and return empty.

To conclude, Ineco’s experience in carrying out transport demand studies in all modes of transport (road, railway, air and maritime) makes it a leading company when it comes to undertaking this type of analysis.