ALONG THE CHAIN

Dominican Republic 2015 | TRANSPORT | VIP INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Karsten H. Windeler, President of the Board of Directors at Maritima Dominicana, on supporting the production of renewable energy, expanding into supply chain management, and strategies for the future.

Maritima Dominica recently met with US Vice-President Joseph Biden to discuss the details of the initiative supporting the production of renewable energy. What is the importance of such support and what is your view on the transformation of the energy sector in the Dominican Republic?

The shipping sector is looking at options to provide more environmentally acceptable vessel fuels. Maritima Dominicana, as a service provider to both the shipping industry and local industry, is also focused on more efficient energy production, and the ways in which we can provide our own services, for example warehousing, in a more environmentally acceptable manner. This is why, three years ago, we were the first company to install solar panels on the roof of our warehouse. The US Vice-President was keen to view them, as the message they give to the whole country is that everyone needs to focus on environmental initiatives. We are also ISO14001 certified as part of our efforts to protect the environment.

In 2013 you mentioned that Maritima Dominicana planned to expand its business into supply chain management. How far has this initiative advanced, and to what extent do you want to expand your services?

We have been working on that subject for the past 12 months. Caucedo Port, adjacent to the airport, is set to construct a Logistic Free Zone (LFZ) to facilitate supply chain management, and to help Caucedo become a hub for the supply of materials and merchandise to the eastern Caribbean for both ships and airplanes. It is similar to Dubai, which has become an important hub in the Middle East because you can send spare parts, materials, and merchandise, both by ship and plane. The inauguration of the new LFZ, scheduled for 2015, is eagerly awaited. Furthermore, the transformation of the customs legal structure that we have been discussing with the government intensely over the past year will also be realized.

“The shipping sector is looking at options to provide more environmentally acceptable vessel fuels."

Maritima Dominicana has recently participated in the leading international maritime trade fair in Hamburg. What is the significance of these kinds of events for the development of the sector and for recognition of the Dominican Republic internationally?

The Hamburg event held every two years is focused on shipbuilding, ship repairs, and the sale of spare parts to the shipping sector. In the case of the Dominican Republic, our ship repair yard, Ciramar Shipyards, has a stand at the Hamburg fair. We have quite a number of ships that are being repaired at Ciramar, and hence there is an important relationship between them, as the ship repair facility, and us as the ship agent. Facilitating this relationship is always an important aspect of our work and is what we focused on when while in Hamburg. In 2014, the event had the historically largest number of companies attending and the largest number of visitors. This was partly because the challenge of transforming the propulsion systems of ships from heavy fuel to other alternatives, involving complicated technology, was highly topical.

Does that mean that you are seeing a regional and international willingness to address these new challenges?

Absolutely, because of new laws ship owners and companies will have to comply with these requirements and, therefore, they will have to find solutions to be able to comply, which, again, involves complicated technology. Furthermore the US and Europe today have a limited number of LNG terminals providing the fuel, which curbs the fuelling ability of ships that call at the larger ports such as Bremen, Hamburg, and Rotterdam. The suppliers themselves are also facing a challenge. Hamburg Port in Germany is the first facility to purchase an LNG barge to fuel shipping lines.

A challenge that many shipping companies have expressed concerns about is the negative balance of trade in the Dominican Republic. What is your view on this situation and how does it affect the industry?

The shipping companies that have balanced trade obviously have the best opportunity to offer competitive rates because they can confirm freight coming in and going out. With balanced trade a country therefore has the most competitive freight rates in the market. For example, in the Dominican Republic for every three containers we import, we only export one in return, which means that two containers have to be shipped back out empty. In this scenario, income for shipping lines from these two empty containers is non-existent, with cost incurred Therefore, the struggle for each nation to balance its trade is an opportunity to be more competitive. This is something that we understand today, as does the government. ıt is looking into incentives, particularly in terms of the legal framework, whereby the Dominican Republic, its free zones, and its agricultural producers, could export in greater volume than in the past and reach a more balanced exchange of trade.

Minister Montás has recently shared his strategic vision of the Dominican Republic becoming a regional hub in the Caribbean. In your opinion, what initiatives should be taken to achieve that goal?

The only requirement really is an improved legal framework for customs handling. There are really no other obstacles. All other components are already in place, as the Port of Caucedo is conveniently located in the Caribbean in close proximity to the airport. As I said before we can ship parts by sea or air. And this is why Caucedo is building this new LFZ in anticipation of the necessary legal structure being put in place.

What is Maritima Dominicana's development strategy?

In 2014 the company has been implementing a global system, meaning that all our departments will be electronically connected through a uniform system for greater operational efficiency. The other initiative we have carried out in 2014 is an evaluation of the efficiency of all the companies that make up our group and their respective departments, to improve our service offering. We have also been authorized as an economic operator by OEA-RD, which further underlines our commitment to compliance with quality standards in terms of service provision. This neatly adds to the ISO certification that we have already had for many years.

© The Business Year - December 2014