STEADY AS SHE GOES

Ecuador 2012 | TRANSPORT | REVIEW: TRANSPORT

The transportation of passengers and cargo is rapidly expanding in Ecuador, a country that has received plaudits for its seaports, airports, and organized infrastructure.

Growing levels of passenger and cargo traffic have propelled the air transport sector to new heights, as the year 2012 heralds the expansion of cargo terminals and the opening of a new airport in the nation's capital, Quito. Meanwhile, airlines are seeking to service new destinations to and from the country and operate more frequent flights to Ecuador's most attractive tourist sites.

Seaports are also expanding their services and facilities, with some choosing to deepen access ways to accommodate larger vessels and others increasing storage space on the ground and upgrading equipment with the latest technology.

Land transport continues to be the preferred modality for domestic passengers traveling between cities, as the country's extensive road networks connect the main destinations by luxury bus services and a national railway system. At the same time, Quito has begun developing its public transportation network below ground with a metro system. These advancements are supporting Ecuador's growth as it becomes globally connected and hosts a population that is more on the move than ever before.

AIR

With the island destination of the Galápagos one of the world's most coveted tourist attractions, airlines have played a particularly important role in terms of international passengers, and demand for domestic air transport has also begun to increase as costs become more affordable.

Ecuador boasts 359 airports, 98 of which have paved runways. The two most important are the Mariscal Sucre International Airport in Quito and José Joaquín de Olmedo International Airport in Guayaquil.

Already in operation for 60 years, Mariscal Sucre International is the principal airport of the country, serving Quito. However, the current facilities, now comprising the highest airport in the world at 2,800 meters, are soon to be replaced by the more environmentally friendly and safer Quiport, which is scheduled to open in 2012. In response, international airlines such as Delta, Aeromexico, and Air Canada have shown interest in flying direct to Quito, something that the previous airport could not physically accommodate. Philippe Baril, President & CEO of Corporación Quiport SA, has emphasized social responsibility and ecological concerns as part of the planning of the new airport, making a positive impact on the nearby communities as well as attracting investment and recognition from organizations such as the UN. “This airport was built entirely with green-fueled technology, and it was important to us to do this and take construction to a higher level," Baril told TBY. “This has never been done in the region."

Guayaquil's main airport also enjoys a high volume of traffic, witnessing the arrival and departure of around 3.9 million passengers in 2011. The impressive growth in traffic numbers since 2004 can be attributed to government policy and the actions of TAGSA, the airport's administration. “We do work to serve our customers with safety, security and quality and respecting the environment conservation and also considering the local community in terms of social responsibility," Ángel Córdova Carrera, General Manager of TAGSA, explained to TBY. The airport has also recently upgraded its cargo facilities, making room for 14,000 sqm of goods and an 800-sqm office space. With an investment of $4.7 million, larger cargo aircraft can now land comfortably and gain access to a 48,000-sqm platform for loading and unloading. Owing to these developments, the José Joaquín de Olmedo International Airport in Guayaquil was ranked the Second Best Airport in Latin America by the Airports Council International (ACI) in 2011.

These airports are home to Ecuador's two main national carriers, AeroGal and TAME, two companies that are seeking to increase the frequency of services between Guayaquil and Quito, as well as services to the popular tourist destination, the Galápagos Islands.

SEA

Four major ports and a host of private terminals serve Ecuador's booming maritime commerce industry. Guayaquil, the largest port in the country, handles an average of 1 million TEUs per year and has further plans for expansion. In collaboration with the second-largest port in Manta, the authorities have developed an agenda to integrate the port system, creating synergy between the two destinations and facilitating the process for the 50-60 companies participating in Ecuador's trading sector.

Primarily an exporter, Ecuador's access to the Pacific has allowed it to reach markets across the globe, and Asia is becoming an increasingly important focal point for the country as it begins importing more goods from mass producers, such as China. Among Ecuador's top sea-bound exports are vehicles, raw materials, and agricultural products. In terms of imports, the country receives industrial materials, fuels and lubricants, and non-durable consumer goods.

With the anticipated widening of the Panama Canal on the horizon, Ecuador's seaport network is becoming more focused on increasing capacity and the dredging of channels to meet the needs of larger vessels that now have access to a new market in South America. At the same time, neighboring Brazil has sought to use river routes through to Ecuador to connect to Asia, opening up further possibilities for growth and expansion in both countries.

The growing sea tourism industry has led to increased volumes of passenger vessels, with Ecuador's ports receiving more cruise ships every year. To attract demand, the Port of Manta has constructed enough space for two liners of 200 meters length to dock in the port simultaneously. The Port of Manta currently hosts approximately 25 passenger ships per year.

LAND

Ecuador's convenient size has proven an advantage in the creation of the road network, which covers approximately 43,197 kilometers across the country. Of these roads, about one-sixth are paved. Ecuador's Highway 35 proudly makes up a portion of the Pan-American Highway, which stretches from Alaska in the north to Tierra del Fuego in the south and connects Ecuador lengthwise to Peru and Colombia.

Transportation services are divided between luxury buses, which travel the main roads between the country's largest cities, standard buses for local routes, minibuses for the road network extending to the outer parts of towns and cities, and rancheras, which service low-income neighborhoods.

The country's national rail service attracts domestic and international passengers for tourism purposes in the Andes region or travel between a handful of locations. However, President Correa has announced his intention to restore the entire 812-kilometer network, considering the railway to be a part of the cultural heritage of the Ecuadorean people. Although there are currently no railroads connecting Ecuador to neighboring countries, preliminary agreements with Colombia have been made.

Locally, government officials in Quito have already launched initiatives to design a metro system. After concluding that the city's layout would meet the requirements for a metro system and benefit its inhabitants, the Mayor of the Municipality of Quito, Agusto Barrera, reported to TBY that, “our preliminary figures suggest that the subway will be 22 kilometers long with 15 stops and 106 coaches, and it will take 24 minutes to travel from Labrador to Quitumbe station, and it will transport 370,000 people daily in its first year." The development of this line reveals the capital's aspirations to become a city with world-class public transportation, as well as to facilitate travel for all income levels of the population. In doing so, Ecuador is positioning itself as a country that offers state-of-the-art transport facilities to the local population, visitors, and cargo enterprises alike.