TBY talks to two presidents of port authorities in Ecuador about the growth potential for the industry and upcoming maritime investments.
How would a future business partner benefit from participating in the development of the port of Manta?
ROBERTO SALAZAR The main advantage of the Port of Manta is that it is increasingly playing a more important regional role in the sector, which at the end of the day is vital, because it offers huge growth potential. Guayaquil is today the most important commercial port in Ecuador, but it has a lot of limitations regarding depth and infrastructure; to solve these would require huge amounts of investment. However, the port of Manta can easily develop and improve its infrastructure, as well as its position at the regional level. For that reason, we need a commercial partner that could facilitate agreements with the
largest maritime freight transportation companies, and at the same time develop our future commercial strategy, the key for our growth and success.
What are the main challenges associated with your work?
RUBÉN MORÁN The port is close to the city, but not close to the ocean. Exports and imports are carried through the 90-kilometer channel of Guayaquil, which causes frequent structural problems and represents a big issue. The navigation channel’s depth is 9.5 meters, which was fine for ships in the past, but it is not deep enough for the next generation of vessels. We are planning to dredge the channel in order to make it deeper. We’re conducting research and hiring consulting companies specialized in the area in order to find out what procedures we should follow to determine the appropriate depth for the current shipping industry and foreign trade.
What are your priorities and goals for 2012?
RSThere is $15 million worth of planned investments for 2012 that will go to the reinforcement of International Port No. 2 and the dredging of the port. These projects are designed within a larger development plan that foresees an overall investment of $281 million, of which the government of Ecuador will contribute $105 million and private businesses another $100 million in the first stage of the project to upgrade our machinery and infrastructure. The main target of this first stage of the project is to achieve a capacity of 300,000 TEUs. The second stage, which amounts to $75 million worth of investment, will be independently raised by private business.
RMOur main goal is to finalize our plan for the dredging project in Guayaquil. There are also infrastructure projects for small expansions, such as developing the logistics area, consolidating cargo, building warehouses, and conducting inventory operations that help facilitate and develop the import-export business from a technical standpoint. But first and foremost, we will focus on dredging.
What is the potential to encourage a higher level of cruise ship traffic?
RSThe tourism industry is rapidly growing and developing in Ecuador, and I believe such growth will boost the arrival of a larger number of cruise ships to the port of Manta. Today, we host around 25 cruise liners every year, and one of our advantages is that we can host two ships of more than 200 meters in length simultaneously. I believe we can further improve our infrastructure to attract more cruise ship operators, but at the same time the city needs to grow and offer more tourist attractions like tourism packages promoting longer stays in Ecuador rather than the usual 24- to 48-hour stays. Depending on the development of the industry, we could even consider establishing the commercial port in one area and the tourism port in another.
How will the future expansion of the port have an effect on Ecuador?
RMDredging is our main project, and it’s closely related to the expansion of the Panama Canal. Once the Panama Canal is expanded, larger ships will be coming through to the west coast of the Pacific. If we’re not prepared, we will have higher costs for imports and exports, and potentially lose part of our business and a number of direct routes. Shipping lines would begin using alternative routes, which would hurt business and trade overall. We’re also planning on establishing a logistics center in the area, which would attract many companies dealing with international transport goods.
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