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Curaçao sees transshipment niche in southern Caribbean
The San Juan Star / November 22, 2004

By Larry Luxner

WILLEMSTAD, Netherlands Antilles — A relatively small port, Curaçao nevertheless is hoping its huge free zone, drydock and refinery operations will help it grab a piece of the transshipment business.

Karel Jan O. Aster, managing director of Curaçao Port Services Inc., said only 20% of the port's currently total volume of 85,000 TEUs consists of transshipment traffic. But he hopes that will change.

"We're a natural deep-water port, reliable, efficient and productive and very competitvie tariffs," he told The STAR. "For transshipment, we have an average of between 20 and 30 moves per hour per crane. We have sufficient container stacking capacity in our terminal and no congestion-related problems like in Panama, Port of Spain and Cartagena."

Most of the transshipment business in Curaçao, said Aster, is cargo from the Far East and Europe destined for Latin America, as well as smaller Dutch-speaking islands like Aruba and Bonaire.

He added that "Puerto Rico is not competitive for us, because we are too far south in the Caribbean. Our transshipment market is mainly Venezuela and Colombia."

The port has two gantry cranes and one Kalmar mobile container handling crane with a 40-ton capacity.

The Curaçao Free Zone re-exports about 18,000 TEUs a year. Virtually all of this cargo — mainly garments, electronics, bicycles and household goods — is re-exported, since the island itself does not produce any significant cargo volume.

"Here it is more a logistical function, sorting out the cargo, regrouping it and exporting it to Venezuela and the Caribbean," said Aster.

The Curaçao port official told The STAR he's optimistic about Ponce's chances for becoming a transshipment center, given its geographic location and the fact that San Juan — like many other Caribbean ports — is already congested.

"At this moment, there's a real capacity problem in the northern Caribbean, so it will have a good chance to attract more transshipment cargo," he said. "I think Ponce has more opportunities for transhsipment than San Juan because the location is much more favorable than San Juan, and it already has a deep-water port. In Ponce, they also have more space."

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