ON SEA & LAND

Dominican Republic 2013 | TRANSPORT | VIP INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Karsten H. Windeler, President of Maritima Dominicana, on the 40th anniversary of the company, and the structure of the local shipping industry.

Shipping companies have recently expressed some concerns regarding the trading deficit that the Dominican Republic suffers. What is your view of the current situation?

Any economy that is facing such a thing is probably faced with inflation. This could benefit exports, but on the other hand negatively affect the volume of imports. Obviously, in the shipping business and the air freight business, volume is always an important factor for the success of our services and the infrastructure that has been created in the port and airport terminals.

How was Maritima Dominicana's performance last year?

In our specific case, we celebrated our 40th anniversary in 2011, and for the first time in the history of the company we were able to attend to more than 2,000 ship calls at Dominican ports. We were the first shipping company in the Dominican Republic that was ISO 9001 certified. Over the last few years Maritima Dominicana was also awarded the ISO 14001 certificate for the protection of the environment and gained OHSAS 18001 certification for the protection and security of all employees, and this is one of the requirements of global companies.

How has the country evolved to face its challenges and improve its competitiveness over recent years?

The private sector shipping business has made some very important investments over the last 10 years, including Haina International Terminals (HIT) and the terminal at Caucedo, which is being managed by DP World, but is 50% owned by local investors, including Maritima Dominicana. One of the worries that the sector has had over the years is bureaucracy, especially in the areas of customs and security services. In the case of customs, fortunately, the Dominican Republic has initiated an entirely different system to perform customs clearance electronically.

“The economies in South America and the Caribbean are stable at the moment, and our economy will also benefit from that factor."

Has your investment in expansion in Haina increased your business in the country?

We have invested in both terminals since the beginning as the private sector obtained the license to operate the port of Haina, which is still owned by the state but is operated by a private entity. Maritima Dominicana invested both in Haina and Caucedo. The reason why we felt this was extremely important was that when the ISPS security requirements structure was produced, a state-owned port terminal could not have reached the compliance level of these requirements without the help of the private sector. This was particularly important in the case of Haina, whereas Caucedo was always a private terminal. In terms of getting ISPS certification in Haina, the government, 12 years ago, realized this would not be reached and Haina would be out of business. Obviously, this has contributed to stabilizing the maritime industry in the Dominican Republic to remain competitive and in a position to offer adequate services to the shipping community around the world. This has resulted in Haina increasing its volume dramatically over the last 10 years, while Caucedo has attracted entirely new business. Around 60%-70% of Caucedo's business is trans-shipment today, rather than local cargo. This has also given us opportunities to attract services, and therefore made us capable of attending more ships.

How has Maritima Dominicana's model changed as a service company over the last 20 years?

We started as a shipping agent and stevedore, and now we are also a warehouse operator, reefer warehouse operator, and equipment operator; we have a fleet of over 1,200 chassis to provide inland transportation services. We have off-dock terminals both here where our office is, and in Caucedo and Puerto Plata. We have a company called Reefer Services, which provides reefer container repair and maintenance to all shipping companies that operate in the Dominican Republic. We have a company called Equipos y Transportes (ET), which provides equipment at the port terminals and for local inland transportation. Therefore, the model of the service range we provide has changed to what I today call supply chain management.

Maritima Dominicana is a member of the Baltic & International Maritime Council (BIMCO). What does this mean for a shipping company in the Dominican Republic?

We are a member of BIMCO, which is based in Copenhagen, Denmark. This is an organization that was created 100 years ago in the steam ship sector and provides norms of conduct within the industry. For example, it develops examples for shipping contracts and insurance conditions. Because BIMCO tries to help the idea of globalization, a certain standard of services are provided; whether it is here in the Dominican Republic or in Timbuktu, it is the same. And that is the idea of BIMCO.

What is your economic forecast concerning trade for 2012?

I believe that this year will be a very stable year. We are facing financial challenges of which we are all aware. Inflation could be a factor that will affect international commerce. But in a globalized world, we are also impacted by influences from all around us. If the US and Europe do well, we do well. If they suffer, we suffer too. It is the same in South America because those countries are our most important trading partners today after the US. The economies in South America and the Caribbean are fairly stable at the moment, and our economy will also benefit from that factor.

© The Business Year - November 2012