CUSTOMER FIRST

Dominican Republic 2019 | TRANSPORT | INTERVIEW

With a range of services spanning the Far East, the US, South America, and the Caribbean and Central America, Marítima del Caribe Dominicana seeks to capitalize on growing shipping volumes.

Bernhard Surges
BIOGRAPHY
Originally from Dusseldorf, Germany, Bernhard Surges pursued a degree in economics in Germany followed by with a degree in logistics. After working in Germany and the UK, he moved to the Dominican Republic and worked as Sales Manager for Caribetrans for five years. Since 1995, he has been working for Marítima del Caribe, the Dominican agent for Evergreen.

What was Evergreen's main interest in having a representative in the Dominican Republic?

Marítima del Caribe Dominicana was established in 1995 as the sole and exclusive agent of Evergreen Marine Corporation (Evergreen) in the Dominican Republic. At the time, Evergreen had only just established a container port in Panama. When it commenced feeder services from Panama to Caribbean countries, it needed a foothold in the Dominican Republic. Our growth here has been a continuous process since 1995, initially in step with that of the local economy, but subsequently exceeding it in terms of our TEU volumes.

What is your comparative advantage?

In comparison to our competitors, we have one of the strongest customer service departments here as far as container shipping agents are concerned, which is borne out by our customers' feedback. Other companies outsource their customer service to third-party services overseas, and our experience is that customers do not favor this practice.

What trends have you observed in the local maritime transport sector?

The trend worldwide certainly is for larger vessels reaching higher economies of scale. Vessels going through the Panama Canal used to have a maximum capacity of around 5,000TEUs, but with the inauguration of the new Panama Canal, that figure has now reached almost 14,000TEUs. This also has an impact on the Dominican Republic: the ports of Caucedo and Rio Haina, which Evergreen calls both, have had to expand their capacity to serve larger vessels. Another reason for the larger vessel trend in even smaller trade lanes is the greater operational cooperation between competing carriers. Until five or six years ago, each shipping line called the country with stand-alone services, but since then, carriers started operating joint services with their competitors. As a consequence, the number of lines offering services has increased, while the number of services has remained more or less stable. This, together with significant improvements in infrastructure—such as ports, roads, and warehouses—and favorable changes in the regulatory framework, has enabled the Dominican Republic to become a regional logistics hub. Additional investments are planned or already under way, which will further increase the movement of cargo to and from the country. All of this sets the Dominican Republic apart from other Caribbean countries.

What are your main markets of operations?

Our main markets are the Far East, the East Coast of the US, the Caribbean, Central America, and the West Coast of South America, among others. We are among the leading carriers in the Far East because Evergreen has three strings of services from there to its regional hub at Colón Container Terminal in Panama. No other carrier has the range and frequency that Evergreen has in this regard.

What are your goals for 2020?

We want to reach our KPIs for each quarter, both by volume and customer satisfaction. While vessel occupation and volumes have been satisfactory for 2018, we surely will improve our performance for 2019.