By Tom Hranac
XXV LATIN AMERICAN CONGRESS OF PORTS
AAPA celebrated a milestone by bringing together a record number of industry leaders for its 25th annual Latin American Congress of Ports in Mérida, Yucatán, Mexico. Continuing to strengthen its status as the premier port conference in Latin America, the Congress gathered more than 400 delegates from 32 countries and four continents from November 29 to December 2, 2016.
In recognition of a quarter century exchanging valuable industry best practices in Latin America, “The Agenda of Latin American Ports for the Next 25 Years” served as the focus of the summit. A number of issues emerged throughout the conference as 40 speakers from 11 countries discussed projects and presented their perspectives on the future of the region and its ports.
While it was evident that there was a general sense of uncertainty about short-term economic outlooks for Latin America due to the possible effects of recent election results in Europe and the U.S., long-term forecasts for investment were overwhelmingly positive despite current downturns in parts of the region.
Speakers also acknowledged that looking toward the future requires an awareness of the past and debated new strategies to tackle issues that have historically hindered development in Latin America. Lack of connectivity infrastructure, sluggish consumer demand, excessive bureaucracy, low productivity and failed attempts to diversify exports were all identified as obstacles to overcome in order to stimulate greater regional prosperity.
Even with these existing challenges, the region’s ports were taking proactive steps to accommodate and encourage future growth through public-private partnerships. Perhaps there was no better example set forth at the Congress than that of host country Mexico, which is currently investing a total of $5 billion dollars in 25 port projects throughout the nation, whose goal is to double the country’s port capacity by the end of 2018.
However, speakers agreed that the strategic agenda for the ports of the future could not depend on investment alone. The impact of new technologies on port operations, the continual evolution of the shipping industry, the effects of the Panama Canal expansion and port-community relations were determined to be other driving factors that would affect Latin American port business in the future.
Furthermore, environmental sustainability issues also continued to be of particular importance, as climate change poses a greater threat to the ports of the region than in other parts of the world. To this end, AAPA signed a memorandum of understanding during the Congress with ECO Sustainable Logistics Chain Foundation and six Argentine ports – Bahía Blanca, Buenos Aires, La Plata, Quequén, Rosario and Villa Constitución – as well as the Consejo Portuario Argentino to further their commitment to sound environmental management.
ECO Sustainable Logistics Chain, supported by AAPA, ESPO and endorsed by Lloyd’s Register, awards the ECOPORTS certification to ports in recognition of their use of environmentally sustainable business practices. Three AAPA member ports in Latin America have already achieved the certification. In 2013, the Port of Santa Marta in Colombia became the first port outside of Europe to be awarded the designation and was then joined by API Ensenada, México, in August 2015. Most recently API Lázaro Cárdenas, Mexico, attained its ECOPORTS status in early November 2016.
In addition, four candidates – Gerardo Checre Adippe Guerra, ANP Uruguay; Jorge Milton D’Angelo Pardo, ANP Uruguay; Nestor Alberto Fernandez Lettieri, ANP Uruguay; and Nolasco Salazar, ENAPRO, Argentina – received their PPM Latino certificates at the Congress.
In order to commemorate the Latin American Congress of Ports’ silver anniversary, Guillermo Ruiz de Teresa, Head of Mexico’s Ports and Merchant Marine and AAPA’s 2015 Port Person of the Year, presided over an awards ceremony during the closing dinner that honored Agustín Díaz of the Curaçao Ports Authority, Armando Duarte of the Port of Santa Marta, Valentín Morán of the Port of Bahía Blanca and Raúl Urzúa of the Port of Valparaíso for their past dedication to AAPA’s Latin American Delegation and efforts in benefit of Western Hemisphere ports.
Next year the Administración Nacional de Puertos will be the host of the 26th Latin American Congress of Ports, which will take place in Punta del Este, Uruguay.
Speaker presentations, photos and the Declaration of Merida are now available on the event’s webpage:
See this article translated into Spanish here.