Feb. 4, 2015

Karsten H. Windeler

Dominican Republic

Karsten H. Windeler

President of the Board of Directors, MARITIMA DOMINICANA


Karsten H. Windeler was born in Germany and began his career in the maritime business with a traineeship at a shipping agency company in Bremen, and was later certified as a shipping agent/broker by the Chamber of Commerce in Bremen. In 1966, he was appointed Owner’s Representative of Continental Lines responsible for the Caribbean, Central America, and Venezuela. In 1971, he founded Maritima Dominicana in the Dominican Republic, and in 1973 founded Caribetrans, an international freight forwarder. He also co-founded Lineas Maritimas de Santo Domingo in 1975, operating up to seven bulk carriers in the Gulf of Mexico, the Caribbean, Central America, and the north coast of South America.

Maritima Dominicana has recently met with the Vice-President of the US, Joseph Biden, to discuss the details of the initiative supporting the production of renewable energy. What is the importance of having 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 ways in which we can provide our own services, for example warehousing, in a more environmentally acceptable way. 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 wanted to have a look at those because the message to the whole country is that everyone should focus on environmental initiatives. We are also ISO14001 and ISO40001 certified as part of our efforts to protect the environment.

In 2014 you mentioned that Maritima Dominicana planned to expand its business to 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 last 12 months. Caucedo Port, which is next to the airport, is going to construct a logistic free zone 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 implementation of the new logistic free zone will be in 2015, which is something we are looking forward to. Furthermore, the transformation of the customs legal structure that we have been discussing with the government intensely over the past 12 months will be brought in too.

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 that is 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, we have our ship repair yard, Ciramar Shipyards, and that has a stand at the Hamburg fair. We have quite a number of ships that are being repaired at Ciramar; 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 this is what we did when we were in Hamburg. And, in 2014 the event had the largest number of companies attending and the largest number of visitors ever. This was partly because the challenge of transforming the propulsion systems of ships from heavy fuel to other alternatives was being discussed and that is quite complicated technology.

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

Absolutely, because under new shipping laws countries' ship owners and companies will have to comply with these requirements and, therefore they will have to find solutions to be able to comply. And this is a challenge because the conversion of a traditional compulsion system to the new system involves difficult technology. Not only that, but right now the US and Europe have very few LNG terminals that provide the fuel; therefore, ships that call at the larger ports such as Bremen, Hamburg, and Rotterdam cannot find the fuel that they need. The suppliers themselves are also facing a challenge. Hamburg Port in Germany is the first port to purchase an LNG barge to supply this fuel to 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?

With a balanced trade a country has the most competitive freight rates in the market. For every three containers, we import, we only export one in return, which means that two containers have to be shipped back out empty. And, that means the income for the shipping lines for these two empty containers is non-existent. It is just a cost. Therefore, the struggle for each nation to balance its trade is an opportunity to be more competitive. They are looking for incentives, particularly in connection with the legal structure, so that the Dominican Republic, its free zones, and its agricultural producers, can export more volume compared to what we have done in the past, and reach a more balanced exchange of trade.