The San Juan Star / November 22, 2004
By Larry Luxner
Despite two years of economic crisis in the Dominican Republic, CSX World Terminals says its new Caucedo project is on target to becoming the nation's dominant port.
In operation since Dec. 4, 2003, the CSX World Terminals' Caucedo transshipment port has already snared 45% of the country's local container traffic. That translates into 220,000 TEUs on an annual basis, says Larry Yunt, vice-president of sales for CSX World Terminals in Charlotte, N.C.
"We're very pleased that we have reached this level of utilization after only 11 months in operation," Yunt told the STAR. "It is our expectation that by the end of 2005, our Phase I capacity will be 100% achieved. What we're saying is that within 18 months, our container terminal will be at capacity."
Next year, he said, Caucedo expects to handle 275,000 TEUs of local container traffic, with a long-term market share of 65%. The port's biggest competitior is Río Haina, a traditional river port which he said does not have the infrastructure or water depth to handle today's large volumes.
"Over the last two years, the Dominican Republic has sharply reduced its imports. The peso went from 16 to the dollar to 50 to the dollar, which severely impacted the buying power of the peso," he said. "That has now bounced back, with the peso closer to 30 to the dollar, so imports have improved. There's also been a change in the government. President Leonel Fernández has been returned to power, and that has been very good for the country."
In addition, Caucedo is handling 6,000 TEUs per week of transshipment volume, equivalent to over 310,000 TEUs a year.
Caucedo comprises 50 hectares of land at a site 30 kilometers west of Santo Domingo, adjacent to Las Americas International Airport. Its principal shareholders are CSX World Terminals, a local consortium of investors that has a 50% stake in the project, and a European investor whom Yunt declined to identify.
The new terminal facility was constructed on a greenfield site within a free-trade zone. It has 600 meters of berth, and a depth of 14 meters. Adjacent to the container terminal, the Caucedo Logistics Center will be developed allowing for direct access to both the new container terminal and the nearby airport.
So far, the partners have invested $290 million in the project. CSX, which has a 50-year concession to operate the port, also runs Puerto Cabello, Venezuela, as well as a number of large container ports in the Far East.
Yunt said Caucedo's biggest customer is MSC, followed by Maersk-SeaLand, CP Ships, Taiwan's Evergreen Line and Zim Israel Navigation Co. Ltd. Another large user of Caucedo is the New Caribbean Service consortium made up of Hapag-Lloyd, Hamburg Sud, P&O Nedlloyd, CSAV and CMA-CGM.
Caucedo employs 600 dockworkers, which Yunt says is a high number for a port this size. But that's because of what he called the country's "extreme" measures when it comes to inspecting inbound cargo.
"The Dominican Republic requires a 100% physical inspection, so that means we are literally unloading 1,600 containers a week and reloading them. Because of that, it requires a lot more personnel than you'd expect at a port doing similar volumes. That's an area of opportunity as Dominican customs practices become more up-to-date. Longer term, even as our volumes go up, our head count will go down."
Yunt said the lack of competition is "energizing" Caucedo's rapid growth.
"The fact that there's a lack of viable transshipment options in the Caribbean Basin is energizing the very rapid growth of our terminal in Caucedo," he said. "Freeport, Kingston and Port of Spain are all at capacity, and regional transshipment volume is growing by 10-15% a year. Today, we have carriers waiting for us to say they can bring their transshipment business to our terminal, but we're holding off because we want to get our service levels up and running before we bring any additional business there."