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Demand exists for a short distance Central American maritime shipping route
In the fourth quarter of 2019, a feasibility study was undertaken to assess the possibility of establishing a short distance Central American maritime shipping route.
Efforts are now being made to seriously explore the creation of a short distance ocean shipping route between Pacific ports in Mexico and Guatemala to Costa Rica, according to Hector Recinos. Recinos is the Guatemalan Deputy Minister of Communications in charge of the country’s air and seaports. In addition to support from the government of Guatemala, the Maritime Authority of Panama has held a series of workshops to study the possible implementation of such a proposal.
The initiative to develop a short distance Central American maritime shipping route is not a new one. At the meetings held in Panama in 2019, the parties involved in the working group agreed to get together in March of 2020 for the purpose of conducting a final review of the information that has been gathered thus far. The focus of this effort is on making connections between Pacific ports in Mexico and Central America. After this meeting, potential users of the short distance Central American maritime shipping routes will be advised of the outcome.
As regards the Caribbean ports in the geographic area under consideration, there are already existing intra-regional connections that facilitate the movement of goods between the affected countries.
Beyond Mexico, Guatemala, Costa Rica, and Panama, the project will eventually expand to encompass ports in Belize, the Dominican Republic, and Colombia. According to Recinos, Guatemala has the pro-tempore presidency of the region and will take the lead in the implementation of the plan once it is concretized and ready to be implemented.
Demand for a short distance Central American maritime shipping route
In addition to studying the demand for such a trade route, the parties to the project are working to determine the costs of moving goods between Pacific ports. The feasibility that was conducted in 2019 determined that the route that includes Puerto Chiapas, Mexico; Puerto Quetzal, Guatemala; and Puerto Calderas, Costa Rica, would have the greatest volume of movement of goods.
Since its opening in 1975, the Puerto Chiapas in Mexico has been principally an agricultural commodity transport center. Improvements made in 2005, however, added facilities for heavy cargo. For its part, Puerto Quetzal in Guatemala is the country’s largest Pacific port and is used for both cargo and as a stop-off point for cruise ships. As for Puerto Caldera, it is the main freight port on the Pacific side of Costa Rica. It is a regular container port facility with three docking areas.
A study commissioned by the Central American Transport Commission (Cocatram) has determined that, according to load movement projections, the recommended capacity for a vessel using this short distance Central American shipping route be 260 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) measured for a 20-foot container with capacity for two cranes for transfer. Estimates are, that by the end of 2020, a movement of 205 thousand TEUs is projected, and by 2030, there will be 295 thousand TEUs of potential demand along the trade route.
Within an institutional framework
The short distance Central American maritime shipping route is based upon a study that has been executed by Cocatram. This organization is an entity that is a part of the Central American Integration System (SICA). Since February 1, 1993, SICA has been the economic and political organization encompassing the Central American States. In the year of its foundation, its membership included Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Panama. Belize joined the group as a full partner in 1998, while the Dominican Republic attained its full membership in 1998. Mexico, Chile, and Brazil are regional observers, and China, Spain, Germany, and Japan are observers from outside the region.
The members of the organization have together concluded that historical trade figures and tonnage transfer data demonstrate that there is transfer activity in liquid bulks, solids, contained cargo, fractional general cargo, and cargo for Ro-Ro vessels.
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