What are Maersk's competitive advantages?
FELIPE H. QUINTANA Over the years, Maersk Colombia SA has achieved a high level of quality in its services; we are the leading company in the market in terms of schedule reliability and volume transported both in imports and exports, which makes us a very competitive company in the industry. In addition, Maersk operates in a special terminal in the Buenaventura port, which is a part of the main maritime infrastructure in Colombia to ship goods to and from Asia, making us more efficient in our services than any other shipping line in the country. We are clearly moving in the same direction as our customers demand better efficiencies in their logistic chain. Since we are an international company, Maersk's fleet is comprised of more than 600 vessels that can carry 3.8 million TEUs with a very reliable and comprehensive worldwide coverage.
How is the recently ratified free trade agreement (FTA) with the US affecting Maersk's operations?
NÉSTOR AMADOR We have reviewed a number of our internal studies and discovered that when an FTA comes into effect it takes two to three years to start seeing any major developments. However, it might vary from segment to segment depending on commercial activity. Logistic segments outside the container businesses, which are what we focus on, tend to have a much quicker response to commercial agreements between countries. In our particular segment, we have seen no immediate trigger effect. However, we are very much looking into the matter to further increase and consolidate our position in the market with the US specifically.
What is behind the company's strategy to increase intra-American tariffs?
FHQ Considering Maersk's freight tariffs, it is clear that our rates are below 2008 standards. Over the years, we have maintained our freight rates, and we needed to increase our tariffs due to high oil prices. In the last few years, we have grown significantly and our strategy is to incorporate larger vessels, gaining economies of scale making us more competitive at the international levels. In this regard, increasing rates is one of the decisions we have made to try to improve economic results; something the entire industry is aiming at.
Which routes are the most important for Colombia?
NA From our business activity, we can say that Asian import routes as well as the intra-American markets are the most significant. In fact, 42% of our 106,000 TEUs belong to Asian markets—38% imports and 4% exports. In terms of the intra-American segment, Brazil, Chile, Peru, Ecuador, and Panama are the main markets we work with representing around 30% to 35% of our current business. The automotive sector, including cars, motorbikes, and trucks, is one of the most important sectors for our company's activity in the country.
How would you assess Cartagena as an international hub?
FHQ Cartagena is clearly becoming a center for transshipment infrastructure and showing a significant growth rate. Cartagena's port will close 2012 with around 2 million TEUs in transshipment, a figure very close to MIT Panama, although Cartagena does not have the same resources as Panama in terms of cranes. On top of that, Cartagena does not have the labor and trade unions problems Panama does. However, the Buenaventura port is more important for Maersk's activity today as a result of our cargo flows, especially in the Asia trade to Buenaventura.
What have been the main import-export trends you have observed in the market over the years?
NA The balance for our flows is 70% imports and 30% exports. Within the last few years that Maersk has been in the country, we have experienced substantial growth in both trades, especially in the imports segment. Maersk is expected to close 2012 with an overall annual growth of 12%. In 2012, we have made a variety of special network changes in the exports segment, and we will end the year with flat growth in this particular area, as a result of some services being close.