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Panama 2019 | LOGISTICS & MARITIME | INTERVIEW

Ports are the lifeblood of Panama's economy and logistics sector. Hutchinson Ports is making huge investments in this infrastructure.

Leonard Fung
BIOGRAPHY
Leonard Fung has over 25 years of experience in the port and maritime industry, 23 of which have been at Hutchison Ports Group, where he started his career in 1996. He has held several managing positions. During his career at Hutchison Group, he has developed, and successfully implemented a great number of projects that are now running with remarkable and effective results, such as the installation of Ajman Terminal in 2012, where he also expanded its business portfolio to include storage and logistics operations. In 2018, he was appointed Executive Director at Hutchison Ports PPC, to lead the terminals of Balboa and Cristobal, located at both ends of the Panama Canal, where he has reinforced strategies to be one step ahead of the clients’ needs and implement strategies to expand services.

How have your results compared to your expectations?

After 22 years of service, we can confirm that we have been committed to the future of Panama in terms of maritime leadership and innovation, and we have grown thanks to a series of values and principles that constitute the basis that help us be the leaders in port development operations in the country. Our growth process has been evident in the overall results of each port. In 1994, prior to the investment of Panama Ports Company, Balboa had the capacity to handle about 44,000 TEUs. By 2007, this capacity had increased to 2.5 million. That same year, the company made an additional investment to improve the project, today considered a mega-port. We have invested over USD1.5 billion in the past 22 years of concession to equip both terminals to our customers' needs, adjusting capacity to 5 million TEUs in Balboa and 2 million in Cristobal. Such investments have been key to port growth and are necessary to meet the demands of world maritime trade. In addition, we have invested in environmentally friendly patio eRTG cranes designed according to the latest standards. These RTG “eco" cranes have significantly lower emission levels and consume up to 40% less fuel than standard machines. In addition, our reefer connections are systematized by our exclusive terminal operating system, nGen, responsible of aligning the operating and financial systems providing a first-class customer service.

How are you maximizing the awareness of the services you provide?

We work primarily with our customers and business partners to adapt to the constant changes and challenges that customers require from us. Our clients are reinventing and adapting to today's economy conditions and trends. This translates into added requirements that we, as service providers, must always be on top of in order to develop methods that offer profitable initiatives on how to manage, transport, and deliver cargo. We have a strong commercial network in our group covering global, regional, and local offices.

What prospects do you see for the company in Panama in comparison to the wider region?

Panamanian ports are strategically located at both ends of the Panama Canal and offer benefits that no other port can. However, other countries may have bigger population i.e. local consumers, which may drive greater demand for imports—resulting in an opportunity for ports in those countries to offer transshipment services. Thus, we need to work on the options that help us to be ahead of the changes and challenges that customers call for. Sitting as a gateway to one of the largest consumer markets, Panama is ideally positioned to provide logistics services to the US and other continental American markets through crossdocking, semi-manufacturing, production assembly, pick and pack, and cold storage, with—sea to air—solutions and inventory warehousing and distribution.

Can you elaborate on your current strategy to connect five continents, 26 countries, and 51 ports?

Hutchison Ports is strategically located at key ports along the most important trade lanes in the world today. The group operates 51 ports spanning 26 countries throughout Asia, the Middle East, Africa, Europe, the Americas, and Australasia. We invest heavily in IT and operational efficiency, innovating in every aspect of our ports' operations. We develop and manage all aspects of port operation and trade-related logistics, sharing proven operational practices throughout our network for the good of global commerce.

What changes have you noticed in the approach of the international business environment toward Panama?

Panama, as a nation, needs to go beyond its port capacity and try to add more value to the supply chain. That is why the priority and attention of Panama must focus on the logistics for the future and develop a global center in logistics.