GUILLERMO BELCASTRO

Spain 2020 | TRANSPORT | VIP INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Guillermo Belcastro, CEO of Hutchison Ports – BEST, on the evolution of the company, e-commerce demand, and competition.

Can you give us a background to Hutchison Ports and how it has evolved here in Barcelona?

Hutchison Ports is a subsidiary of a multinational conglomerate called CK Hutchison, which consists of five core businesses in ports and related services, retail, infrastructure, energy and telecommunications. Hutchison Ports operates 52 ports in 27 countries. Hutchison Ports BEST in Barcelona is different as it is the first semi-automatic terminal within the group and the most efficient terminal with an average of approximately 40 moves per hour, allowing our customers to recover lost time and save fuel compared to other conventional ports. Hutchison Ports acquired the terminal in 2006, from the Grupo Mestre, a family-owned Spanish company. We won the bidding process from the Port Authority of Barcelona to build and operate a new terminal through a concession agreement. We began our semi-automatic operations in 2012; hundreds of millions of euros were invested into the terminal facilities and into a customised terminal operating system, nGen, developed by our headquarters in Hong Kong and adapted to BEST's specifications with the collaboration of our local team.

What tools and processes are in place to increase efficiency?

Apart from having the latest technology and a smart software in place, we ensure that our operations remain simple and efficient. We designed a semi-automatic terminal to ensure we had the best of both worlds, combining technology on one side and people efficiency on the other.

How are you growing to tackle the growing demand of e-commerce?

Every week, we receive vessels with a capacity of 19,000 TEUs, thus we are growing and improving our facilities. We have increased the height of our quay cranes by 5 metres to service the largest vessels coming in and we are also increasing our container yard capacity – adding three more blocks this year to our terminal yard thus increasing our handling capacity. The increasing ecommerce demand must be analysed by all supply chain players so as to rapidly adapt their processes especially custom procedures and regulations.

Do you think there will be more competition in the sector as the Mediterranean Corridor gains more momentum and more infrastructure is built?

The Mediterranean Corridor is a logical solution for the imbalance suffered in Europe, as most vessels are going to northern European ports. There are cases where the containers are returning back to Spain, leading to environmental impact, higher cost freights and increases transit times. The infrastructure is currently in place and we can cross the border to France, but we need to improve the efficiency in several aspects such as customs and better integration and coordination between countries. This will happen sooner or later, because it makes market sense.

What is your sustainability plan and how are you working to lower your emissions?

BEST is one of the greenest terminal in Spain as most of the equipment is powered by electricity. Furthermore, we believe in the future of rail transport, Synergy, our own in-house rail operator has been created to lower emission within the supply chain. We have also invested in inland terminals in Pamplona and Zaragoza linking Barcelona to these inland rail terminals. Developing rail transportation is the one of the best ways to meet environmental concerns from a logistics point of view. In addition, the Port Authority is strict regarding environmental issues, and this year we are exploring a project with them called 'Shore Power' on how to supply electricity to berths whereby their intention is to provide all quays close to the City with on-shore power so that ships can plug-in and avoid any emission release; the President of the Barcelona Port Authority has stated that “we will reduce NOx emission by 35 % in 2023.”

In your opinion, what is the greatest challenge you face in Barcelona in the sector?

BEST is one of the most efficient terminals in the world, but efficiency alone is not enough. We need to create new services with added value to our customers and introduce new solutions, both inside and outside the terminal, which will allow us to bring more cargo to Barcelona. Another challenge is to enter the French market through the Mediterranean Corridor and thus expand the hinterland of the Port of Barcelona. We want to be a smarter terminal adapting to new technology, not only through data utilization but also through analytical prediction. However, technology is becoming more and more a commodity, what really makes us different is our people, and you need talented and motivated people to innovate on a daily basis, at the end of the day, innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower.