Up for Grabs - Trans-loading in the Caribbean
Before its expansion, the Panama Canal was sending 4,500 TEU ships into the Caribbean with containers for trans-loading and final destination. Larger 8,500 TEU vessels transiting the Suez brought a little more volume to island hubs.
Terminals in Jamaica and the Dominican Republic became trans-load centers for the Caribbean and US port range, while facilities in Colon could swing cargo to a wide range of destinations including South America.
Trans-shipment in the Caribbean Sea
The port of Kingston, Jamaica is getting a facelift with the infusion of $600 million for upgrades and expansion to Kingston Container Terminal (KCT). Terminal Link, a subsidiary of CMA CGM and the Jamaican Government, entered into a partnership called Kingston Freeport Terminal Ltd. (KFTL). KFTL will operate the port jointly for 30 years before turning the facility back to Jamaica. Terminal Link will invest $460 million on reinforcing 394 feet of the wharf to meet Euro Code standards and dredging alongside 2,625 feet of the quay to 51 feet. The remaining funds will be spent on terminal expansion and upgrades. In addition the government will seek private partnerships to spend $130 million to dredge Kingston’s harbor to accommodate Neo-Panamax vessels arriving from the canal. The government believes partnering with Terminal Link will bring a major dynamic to the table through CMA CGM’s world-class service with strong ties to Caribbean and Latin Markets.
The Dominican Republic
Prior to the canal’s expansion, the Port of Rio Haina in the Dominican Republic was capable of handling trans-load traffic for the region. With just under 1,731 linear feet of usable wharf face, the Puerto Hiana Oriental facility could accommodate one Panamax vessel working it with two shore-mounted cranes. Thirty minutes east of Santo Domingo lay the suburbs of Boca Chica and Andres. On the adjoining coast sits the Port of Caucedo. Operated by DP World this facility is fully capable of handling the largest ships the Panama Canal can throw at it. Opened in 2002 the port had from its inception counted on the growth in traffic an expanded canal would bring to the Dominican Republic. A 3,280-foot quay comprising three berths with 49.2 feet of water alongside each is sheltered from the open sea by 2,952 feet of breakwater. DP World holds a 50-year concession on the facility and intends to expand its capacity from 700,000 TEUs to over one million containers. The consortium of NYK, Evergreen and Hyundai operating joint services in the Caribbean have spent $15 million to create a Caucedo Logistics Center to improve their competitiveness in the region. The Center will coordinate the discharge and trans-loading of containers destined to various ports served by the three partners.
The Colon Connection
While port expansion in Balboa has taken center stage in recent years, the three terminals comprising the Atlantic port of Colon should not be overlooked.
Hutchinson Port Holdings (HPH) Cristobal: HPH operates two terminals in Panama, one on each coast.
Placing emphasis on the cruise industry, Hutchinson added a state of the art berth number 6 to Cristobal Port, which can handle two of the largest ships, which enter or exit the canal. The container terminal has 11 berths with a total of 14,468 feet of wharf. Thirteen Panamax and Post Panamax cranes handle vessels drawing up to 42 feet of water. The facility’s annual capacity is 2 million TEUs.
Manzanillo International Terminal (MIT): Built on the old Coco Solo Sur Naval Base, MIT is operated jointly by Carrix Inc. (SSA Marine) and the Motta and Heilbron families. A multimodal facility, the container terminal is equipped with 19 Post and Neo Panamax cranes on 5,380 linear feet of quay. The current depth alongside is 42 feet but can be dredged to 49 feet in the future. MIT has an onsite logistics park adjacent to the FTZ (Free Trade Zone) and easy access to the Panama Canal Railway. The terminal handles around 3.5 million TEUs per year.
Colon Container Terminal (CCT)
Operated by Evergreen Marine, CCT can handle 2.4 million containers per annum. The depth at the newly completed Berth 4 is 54 feet. Three Neo Panamax cranes discharge vessels loaded with 23 containers across their beam. Plans to deepen Berth 3 and extend both 3 and 4 will bring the total useable wharf up to 2,559 feet allowing the facility to handle two 13,000 TEU ships at the same time. CCT has easy access to the FTZ and near dock connection to the railway.
The Next Generation of Hub and Spoke Shipping
As the Caribbean gears up for Very Large Container Ships (VLCS), ports will have to become more competitive. The winners will be those terminals, which can turn boxes quickly and efficiently. It will require a combination of deep draft, available cranes and skilled labor. Wider beam VLCSs will need cranes with greater out-reach. Crane operators will also have to be conscious of lift and discharge time. Today’s facilities are only achieving 28 to 32 lifts per hour. To turn transition cargo quickly the terminal will need to either increase lifts per hour or add additional cranes to each vessel worked. The container boom is just beginning in the Caribbean Basin. Will that momentum reach the trans-load ports of Latin America?