By Michele Labrut from Panama---Global container terminal operator PSA International's head for Latin America Enno Koll is confident that the region offers opportunities to port operators now that the Panama Canal expansion inauguration is less than 10 months away.
The opening of the expanded canal, which will allow containerships of up to 13,000 TEU to transit the waterway, is planned for the second quarter of 2016.
"Increased consumption is likely to lead to more transhipment and destination cargoes. We see certain countries on the West Coast of Latin America still enjoying healthy GDP growth and this has a positive knock on effect on container volumes," says Koll who has based in Panama since his arrival a year ago. "Good economic growth which engenders higher disposable incomes has also contributed to increased imports from Asia using containers, which are often transhipped on the Pacific side of Panama," he explains.
"We are constantly on the lookout for new opportunities. However, for a long-term investment horizon, it is important to look beyond quarterly GDP figures. Many other factors including location, consumption markets, export strengths and port accessibility need to be considered. At the same time, we will continue to ensure that our existing terminals deliver the best service to our shipping line customers and contribute to the local economies," he says.
PSA operates the PSA Panama International Terminal, is a partner in Exolgan Container Terminal in Argentina and is building in a JV with ICTSI the SPIA-Aguadulce terminal, in the bay of Buenaventura on the Colombian Pacific coast.
"Exolgan Container Terminal is doing well. We have upgraded the cranes and berths to handle 10,000 TEU vessels, increased the yard space and implemented a new Terminal Operating System (TOS). While the economic situation in the country looks set to remain challenging for 2015, we have a positive outlook for 2016."
"Beyond the Exolgan terminal, we operate Exologistica, which is a key logistics operator in Argentina; and LPI, which offers over 170,000 cu m of warehouse space. We follow the cargo along the supply chain and provide a one-stop-shop for the importers and exporters."
In Buenaventura, the first phase of SPIA-Aguadulce terminal will have a 600 metre-long berth, four Super Post-Panamax ship-to-shore cranes with 23 rows outreach and a water depth of 14.5 m, able to welcome the Post-Panamax shipping services covering the West Coast of South America. As of now, 10,000 TEU-vessels are already calling the port of Buenaventura.
SPIA-Aguadulce will be ready for operations in the first quarter of 2016 with a capacity of 600,000 TEU, and a total investment of around $500m, says Koll. In its final phase the terminal will feature a total of 900 m of quay, a total of six super post-panamax ship-to-shore cranes and the total area (including container yards) of 60 hectares, up from 44 hectares in its first phase.
"The SPIA terminal is a game-changer in Buenaventura providing easy access for vessels, the deepest water depth and largest cranes in the bay. There will also be state-of-the art warehouses, a secure and uncongested access road and fast truck turnaround times. We have plenty of available space for logistics operations and empty depots along the access road," explains Koll.
PSA Panama International Terminal, located on the Pacific entrance of the Panama Canal is going ahead with a $400m-expansion that will grow its capacity to 2m TEU by increasing berth length to 1,140 m (from 340 m today) and the purchase of eight quay cranes ready to handle 18,000 TEU vessels. Construction has already started and will shift into higher gear soon with the opening planned in the last quarter of 2016.
"From our experience, we see a positive link between bigger ships and increased transhipment. Worldwide, the number of container voyages in which a box is transhipped at least once has increased significantly. The formation of shipping line alliances accelerates this trend, as partners try to optimise their shipping routes and align their hubs where possible."
"But transhipment is competitive in nature and it can happen anywhere outside of Panama. Panama needs to actively promote itself and make transhipment attractive. As an example, Panama could leverage the canal to encourage transhipment at its ports. This would be unique to Panama and could help boost the transhipment of containers in Panama," comments Koll.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.