At the 21st congreso latin americano de puertos in beautiful Antigua in Guatemala. The first panel consisting of Robert West (Worley Parsons), Alejandro Couttolenc Villar (Port of Vercruz, Mexico), Franc Pigna (AEGIR) and Kenneth O’Hollaren (Port of Longview, Washington state) certainly seems to agree on the importance of improving port competitiveness. The important question on the table – how do you define (and then measure, and then improve) the competitiveness of a port – what KPIs (metrics) are interesting?
From my work in the various Latin American ports, the land transportation costs are still relatively higher compared to the cost of goods. There are a lot of opportunities for improving the IT infrastructure and processes for trucks to load and unload the goods at the ports. Many times there is not enough visibility of the trucking operations to allow the terminals to plan ahead for their arrival, and that leads to unnecessary congestion inside and around the terminals. Sometimes the trucks simply queue up outside, and sometimes the trucks simply linger outside after doing a drop off, hoping to pick up another load. One KPI that is sometimes used is the “turn time”, which tries to measure the total time that a truck spends inside the port (or the terminal) in order to do an operation. Of course, the turn time depends on the port and also on the operation, but the trend on that KPI value with time can at least provide us with if the efficiency with respect to trucking operations is improving or not.
Franc Pigna (AEGIR) focused significantly on the implications of the Panama canal expansion, and with the knowledge that only one port on the US East Coast that is currently ready for very large vessels (and that port is Norfolk, as you all know), the question becomes if the situation will change for a lot of non US Atlantic ports, such as Cartagena, Kingston, etc.
Kenneth O’Hollaren focused his presentation on opportunities of bulk exports from Latin America to North America. There are significant bulk supply chains currently between these two regions, and some of my past work has focused on that.