Cuba high on agenda as regional maritime interests meet in Cartagena
With the wrapping up of the Panama Canal expansion, 2016 promises to be a decisive year for container shipping in the Caribbean. Next April, the month in which the project is scheduled for completion, is regarded with equal measures of dread or excitement, depending on which shipping interest you speak to.
This is because the completion of the $5.2 billion project to widen the Panama Canal will herald the navigation through the canal of container vessels of up to 13,000TEU, which is more than double the size of the ships that can now be accommodated.
The opening up of this key international shipping lane to larger vessels is expected to usher in new shipping and supply-chain models for international maritime trade, and within the region itself, enable new routes between the Atlantic and Pacific coasts. This presents numerous opportunities as well as challenges for the region's maritime interests.
It is against this background that the Caribbean Shipping Association (CSA) opened its three-day conference in Cartagena, Colombia, yesterday, with almost 300 delegates representing maritime interests from the Caribbean, Latin, and North America, as well as Europe in attendance.
In opening the CSA's 45th Annual General Meeting, Conference and Exhibition, President Grantley Stephenson, who is also CEO of Kingston Wharves Ltd, urged delegates to see this historical event as a watershed moment and a "make or break golden opportunity" for regional shipping.
Pointing to the recent mergers and acquisitions among global shipping interests, Stephenson urged regional maritime businesses to consider collaboration in order to meet the operational and other challenges among the region's ports.
"The case for collaboration among Caribbean port operators is stronger than ever. Caribbean ports need to develop a strong network - acknowledging each one's competitive advantage and possibly cooperating to direct cargo/commodity routes. I don't think this kind of alliance exists among ports - they certainly exist among lines - so it may be time that we started creating some alliances of our own," said Stephenson.
A major highlight
A major highlight of the first day of the conference was the election of the CSA's new president and vice-president for 2015-2016. David Jean-Marie, the CEO of Barbados Port Inc was elected the successor to Stephenson, who demits office having served three consecutive terms. Juan Carlos Croston, vice-president of marketing for Panama's Manzanillo International Terminal was elected vice-president.
Delegates will hear from several import industry experts over the three-day, conference including Olivier Tretout, the CEO of Kingston Freeport Terminal Limited.
The CSA, the voice of the Caribbean shipping industry, was established in 1971 to facilitate development of an efficient, viable Caribbean shipping industry.
Conferences hosted by the CSA provide a forum in which matters relevant to the growth and development of Caribbean shipping are discussed.