WORLD TOP CONTAINER PORTS 2011 / Puerto Cabello - Venezuela
CM Container Management, 01th July 2011
TEU Throughput 2010: 809,454 (+2%). Puerto Cabello is Venezuela's main port, handling around 75% of the country's commercial cargo and the majority of its container volumes. It is managed and operated by Bolivariana de Puertos (Bolipuertos), which took over all operations from the landlord port authority IPAPC and private terminal operators on July 30, 2009. This followed the centralised takeover of the country's ports by President Hugo' Chavez, when the assets and stevedoring operations of the private operators at Puerto Cabello and its terminal facilities were appropriated. Stevedoring operations are now carried out at the various terminals by Bolipuertos, although some bulk cargo and containers are also handled by private operators competing to some extent with the public port authority. Despite repeated announcements of the intended acquisition of a fleet of Kalmar reachstackers, a lack of cargo handling equipment is a persistent problem in the port. In 2010 Puerto Cabello managed a small increase in volumes to 809,454 teu, despite exceeding its designed capacity and being unable to handle any more containers. Unfortunately the increased volumes were not enough to halt the port's slide in the world rankings and it slipped a further 11 places to 119th position. If the situation does not improve dramatically during the next 12 months, there is every possibility that it will not be included in next year's World Top Container Ports list. Puerto Cabello has been left behind the times, without investment since 1970 and with many problems including bureaucracy, insufficient container-handling equipment and a lack of spare parts for existing equipment. Another factor adding to the overall low level of terminal productivity is the lack of STS gantry cranes. For many years prior to centralisation and its takeover by Bolipuertos, the IPAPC had been attempting to pursue plans for proposed sites for a new container terminal. The Port's master plan proposed the development of Area VII as a top priority, as well as development of Areas Ill, IV and VI, but no progress was ever made. However, earlier this year, matters took a turn for the better when Venezuela signed an agreement with China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC), a subsidiary of China Communications Construction, to construct a new container terminal in Puerto Cabello. This will be located in Punta Salinas, close to El Palito oil terminal, and is another example of an increasing Chinese commercial presence in the country. Phase one will cost around US$600m and will be paid for by the Venezuelan government. The terminal is expected to comprise two post-Panamax berths more than 300 m long, which will allow the handling of much larger vessels and will double the port's current capacity. Things then took another turn for the worse in the Port's seesaw history when in June 2011 the government "unified" all port tariffs and charges. The Puerto Cabello Chamber of Commerce has said that this will increase rates by up to 250%.