Can you tell us about the history of Maritima Dominicana?
I started Maritima Dominicana in March 1971 with the help of my brother-in-law, Gustavo Tavares, and there were only three employees. Then, in 1973, I founded another company called Caribetrans, which was involved in warehousing and airfreight forwarding. Caribetrans today has warehouses in every airport in the Dominican Republic, and also 10,000sqm of warehouses in the city. We also created a company called Terminales Haina, which has custom warehouses where consolidated cargo is taken from every port once it has cleared customs and is then delivered to the receivers. Then, we began a firm called Almatrans Logistics that operates fiscal warehouses and logistics centers, before forming an inland transportation company called Equipos y Transportes, which today owns more than 1,200 chassis and many trucks and other equipment to handle containers in the ports and off-dock facilities. Then, we built an entity called Mardom Projects that handles heavy lift cargo both for loading and discharging and local transportation. As a matter of fact, Mardom Group participated in handling the heaviest pieces in the history of the Caribbean, having handled four pieces of 720 tons when Barrick Gold was being established in the Dominican Republic. Finally, we created a company called Reefer Services to provide repair and maintenance services for every shipping company involved in reefer containers in the DR, and also for dry containers. We provide all these services so that global companies only need one logistic service provider in the entire country. And our group has now about 1.500 employees.
How are you involved in the Port Caucedo logistics terminal, and how is it affecting the wider landscape of transportation in the region?
If each company had its own warehouse with a large inventory, it would be quite expensive. Therefore, they outsource this to service providers such as Almatrans and Caribetrans, because we can bring in whatever they need each week and deliver it in time for manufacturing. This is what happens at the logistic centers. This is the essence of supply chain logistics where we handle ocean and airfreight transportation, custom clearance, and warehousing. We are also one of the first companies certified as an Authorized Economic Operator, which is where external auditors determine that our procedures are accurate and honest. We are also certified ISO 9001, ISO 14001, and OHSAS 18.001. We are also certified by the World BASC Organization with respect to the security of all our activities. Every government entity, such as the port authority, customs, and security, wants to be sure that we, as service providers in the ports and airports, do this correctly and honestly. Once the auditors determine that this is indeed the case then they give us this certification. As a whole, the opportunity for a logistics center was created by the Dominican government with legal decree 262-15, which was established last year in order to create a legal structure and opportunities for the expansion of logistics for local and other cargo that can be distributed throughout the Caribbean. Since then, Caucedo has established one building but will build many more that will be able to handle the kind of merchandise being shipped to these logistics centers. Here, shippers can either get their cargo to local customers and then pay customs and VAT, for example, or ship it to other destinations in the Caribbean without having to pay local taxes. The port of Haina will also provide these same services. As a matter of fact, one of our chief executives, Salvador Figueroa, is the president of an entity created for this purpose, the Association of Dominican Logistics Operators and Centers (ASOLOGIC). The ports of both Caucedo and Haina have an important opportunity to develop these additional capacities.
What is the essential cargo that MarDom handles and where do you see future growth?
We believe the agricultural sector will be able to increase the volume of exports to the US and Europe. Around 20 years ago, we handled between 50 and 60 containers of pineapples every week bound for the US from Dole and Chiquita. Back then, these large fruit and vegetable suppliers had their own shipping companies, but many now outsource this to container shipping companies. This is also how we became the service provider for all banana exports and handled three weekly fixed-day services of vessels to take them to Europe. We believe not only that the Dominican Republic will be able to increase production of fruits and vegetables for export around the world, but also that the production of manufactured goods in the free zones will continue to increase, especially given the new decree that simplifies these supply-chain logistics. This will make it easier to bring in the materials these manufacturers need to produce local products like clothing, shoes, and electrical equipment. The Dominican Republic has several large free zones that do this already, but the opportunity to increase productivity and the number of products that can be manufactured locally is tremendous.
How do you see the shipping industry playing out over the next five years?
More large shipping companies are going to start consolidating, a trend that has already begun over the last two years. Many global carriers are now working closely together or are buying other companies in order to reduce internal costs of their operations and survive the economic crisis within the industry. We could also have other incidents like the insolvency of Hanjin, which has created a lot of uncertainty within the market. All of their ships were suddenly stopped, and the cargo onboard was not discharged at the port of destination until the port terminals could determine whether they were going to be paid for their services. Hence, there is some fear within the sector that other carriers might have to declare insolvency.