Marrakesh Express

Colas’s asphalt has played a role in the construction of virtually every paved road in Morocco.

Morocco is a country on the move. Fortunately, with a rapidly expanding road network, getting around this vast North African kingdom is becoming easier thanks to modern construction equipment and expert know-how.

Over the last 80 years no company has done more to tie Morocco’s vast landmass together than French contracting giant Colas. In fact, Colas’s asphalt has played a role in the construction and maintenance of virtually every paved road in the Kingdom.

The quality of Morocco’s roads is higher than in many other African countries, mostly thanks to Colas, which introduced Morocco to new European technology, resulting in a road network that is up to international standards.

Volvo’s latest ABG7820 paver sets to work in Morocco.

Connecting the country
Colas has a long history, which began in France in 1929 when it gained the license for the cold asphalt process developed by oil firm Shell – in fact the name ‘Colas’ is a merger of the two words ‘COLd’ and ‘ASphalt’. In the 1930s, Colas entered Morocco – which was then a French protectorate and set up its site in Casablanca. Today its 3,000 employees work for seven group companies and its 11 asphalt plants are spread from the border with Algeria, to Tangier and right up to the Atlantic border.

“In the early days it would take almost two days to go from Casablanca to Tan Tan in the south – now you can do the same journey in less than eight hours,” says Claude Cazal the company’s Director of Material. Claude is responsible for the 800 machines and vehicles Colas operates in Morocco. The fleet consists of 70 motor graders, 70 wheel loaders, 50 excavators, 50 compactors, 30 bulldozers, six articulated haulers and lots of smaller vehicles. Volvo supplies 30 of these larger machines, and are a welcome addition due to the cost savings provided by their lower fuel consumption. Volvo models include G900 graders, L120F wheel loaders, excavators between 22 and 45 tonnes and a dozen asphalt pavers including Volvo’s latest ABG7820 paver.

Colas has doubled its business in Morocco over the last five years, rising on a tide of increased government spending on its road network. “50% of our business is maintenance while the rest is building new roads,” says Cazal. “There is some road widening work, but not much as the original roads have too many bends to be practical long term transport solutions.”

There are a lot of ambitious projects ongoing in Morocco, including the massive Renault-Nissan car factory in Tangier, for which Colas is supplying 200,000 tonnes of asphalt for that project alone. Added to that is a large scale development of the Port of Tangier and numerous national highway projects.

This paving team are working on the outskirts of Casablanca.

Harsh conditions
But building roads in desert conditions isn’t easy. “The real enemy of the road is not the sun – but the rain,” says Cazal. “The heat only affects the wearing course, but even this can be solved using admixtures to the asphalt. But the rain breaks up the whole structure. It doesn’t rain very often, but when it does it tends to be very heavy and destructive to the roads. Another problem is the rapid rise of traffic, which has exploded in recent years. In the 1980s only managers had cars – now everybody does,” remembers Cazal.

This is a very exciting time to be in Morocco. The country’s confidence is growing and there are many exciting projects being planned. With contracts to build 150 km of highway near Morocco’s border with Mauritania, a 40 km road through the mountains near Casablanca and a host of other projects, Colas is sure to continue making a contribution to Morocco’s development for many years to come.

Claude Cazal, director of materials for Colas in Morocco, is responsible for the company’s fleet of 800 machines.

Ends.

October, 2010

Text: Brian O’Sullivan

Picture 1: Colas’s asphalt has played a role in the construction of virtually every paved road in Morocco.
Picture 2: Volvo’s latest ABG7820 paver sets to work in Morocco.
Picture 3: This paving team are working on the outskirts of Casablanca.
Picture 4: Claude Cazal, director of materials for Colas in Morocco, is responsible for the company’s fleet of 800 machines.

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Brian O’Sullivan
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