Building the Largest Logistical Platform in the Americas

Havana, Dec 24.- It is a well known fact that real and great hopes for the development of the Cuban economy lie in the first Special Development Zone (ZEDM) created on the island. Also, that the ZEDM is an ideal space for foreign investment and industrial development, and that Mariel, with one of the best natural ports in the region, is aiming to become the most important logistical hub in the Americas.

Despite the economic, commercial and financial blockade imposed on the island by the United States, exploiting Mariel’s full potential in order to transform it into a world class logistical platform, remains a challenge.

Located close to several airports and with the construction of highways and train lines, the port of Mariel includes a multimodal transport system, opening the ZEDM up to the world.

The Mariel Container Terminal S.A. (TCM), among the first to begin operating in the ZEDM, exploits the benefits of a safe deep water port located in the heart of global maritime trade traffic, able to receive up to 824,000 TEUs (20 foot container units) per year.

After operating for almost 24 months, the modern TCM is gradually evolving, responding to growing demand. This Cuban mercantile entity, managed by PSA International of Singapore (world leader in port development, investments and operations) has been handling over 80% of all Cuban container traffic since 2014.

According to TCM Director General, Charles A. Baker, the facility took on shipping services from the old Havana Container Terminal over a period of six months and had to train operators with little or no previous experience in port activities.

The British specialist explains that after operating for two years with a staff of mostly young workers, the terminal’s standards have improved, as employees learned to use new technologies, through training and innovation.

A REVIEW OF THE INDICATORS

With these improvements in the quality of work, the center which in 2014 completed an average of 18 crane movements per hour in the process of loading and unloading ships, today makes 26 with the potential for more.

Baker expressed his satisfaction given such achievements, noting that the TCM is among the top of its kind in the world. “These levels will rise once we receive larger ships (currently a maximum length of 203 meters),” he adds.

According to the expert, the bigger the ship, the faster the unloading process, given that the cranes move less during the operation. “On big ships, the work is carried out as if on top of a building.”

The situation will be different in 2016, when the dredging of the port of Mariel is scheduled to begin, the expansion of the Panama Canal is completed and Cuban waters will be able to receive the largest ships on the planet (Panamax and New-Panamax), on their way to other destinations.

Although 8% of cargo that arrives to the terminal is transported to Santiago de Cuba – according to Charles A. Baker – receiving huge ships in a deep water port is what will really transform Mariel into an international transshipment hub.

Another of the main indicators which demonstrates the efficiency of the TCM is the 44 minutes it takes for a truck to enter and leave the terminal, a process which took three hours in the old terminal, emphasized Baker.

The director of the facility states that in the coming months and in collaboration with the General Customs of the Republic of Cuba, these times and the number of administrative procedures will be reduced through the TCM’s fully automated processing system.

The entity is also looking to reduce waiting times – which are still greater than similar facilities in Europe and Asia – in order to prevent backups. Nonetheless, Baker highlighted the organization of transport as one of the strong points of the process.

INSIDE THE TCM

Four TCM cranes, able to support up to 85 tones, operate on the 702 meter (maximum length 2,400 meters) dock, while another 12 are stationed in the adjoining 27 hectare courtyard.

To the state-of-the-art equipment, must be added a sophisticated surveillance system, machines to move empty, refrigerated or oversized TEUs as well as a railway line to transport both containers and passengers to Ciego de Ávila.

Among the biggest importers in 2015, Baker highlighted the network of TRD Caribe stores, Cimex and Alimport, while the largest shipping lines included Cuban entity MELFI, Italian company MSC, Maersk Line of Denmark and the French CMA CGM.
On the other hand, he noted that this year the entity received almost 100,000 containers more than in 2014.

Given that maritime transport continues to be the most economic means of large-scale trade transportation, the TCM is aiming to transfer goods to the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Haiti, Mexico and other Central American countries, while it remains excluded from the U.S. market, the TCM director stated.(Granma)

Radio Cadena Agramonte, December 24, 2015

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