Maritime industry seeks to improve competitiveness to restore growth

The movement of cargo through Panamanian ports closed in the first 8 months of the year, an increase of 12.71% over the same period last year, according to figures from the Maritime Authority of Panama.

From January to August 2014, the Panamanian ports recorded around 55.26 million metric tons, while in the same period of 2015 nearly 62.3 million metric tons were recorded.

The difference reveals a trend change compared to previous years. Recall that the container movement slowed sharply last year compared to 2013, to encrypt a 3.24% increase. In 2013, the growth was 60.21% over the previous year.

Despite the rebound in cargo rates mobilized during the first two quarters of 2015, the number of containers maintains moderate growth compared to the same period of previous years.

To Vitrash Deepak, president of the Panama Maritime Chamber (CMP), slowing growth in previous years was due to external ports that affected the movement of cargo to Panama situations.

However, Deepak believes that this year there has been an increase in movements “by the high competitiveness of Panamanian ports” rather than by increased freight traffic worldwide. “We have acquired more cargo from other ports in the region that are now going through Panama,” he said.

When asked about international economic movements, following the devaluation of the currency in China, which ranks second in volume of cargo transported through the Panama Canal, with more than 51.5 million tons last year, director of the CMP believes that will be affected the movement of raw materials to the Asian giant, but warned that Latin American exporters might find opportunities in southeast Asian countries.

“I think in raw material is seeing a fall” movement, but “in my opinion, Panama will be benefited with traffic (load) to Southeast Asia, which is an economy that is pointing up” Deepak said. food production in South America would be a category that would impact on freight movements by Panama.

Moreover, the strengthening dollar and falling oil prices have a situation that can be used by countries seeking to increase its hydrocarbon reserves. According to Deepak, this situation “may increase tanker traffic through the Panama Canal.”

The president of the Panamanian maritime union points out that, despite economic developments, companies in the sector point to growth evaluating opportunities in improving services to enter a new level of competitiveness. Among the challenges facing the sector, it highlights the decrease in operating costs. “Both of us (CMP) and the Government, we must work together to lower costs while improving our workforce and invest in the primary, which is education,” said Deepak.

Another of the great challenges of logistics and port sector is the lack of skilled labor. Before the Panama Canal expansion and new business this will generate, the situation could worsen.

Meanwhile, Luciano Fernandez, executive director of the CMP, adds that since the sector companies have established plans update for teachers of maritime high schools, and numerous university professors of maritime careers and reviewing plans study, in order to adapt them to present Panamanian ports.

On infrastructure needs required by the growth of maritime activities, Fernandez said that “in ports, roads and railways are making a series of analyzes and working with the authorities to face competition that is coming.”