Caribbean Basin Supply Chains: Part III
Mariel aims to be the first port of call for neo-Panamax container ships after passing through the Panama Canal to the U.S. East Coast, with feeder services providing direct connections from Mariel to Gulf Coast ports in Tampa, Mobile, New Orleans, Houston, and Altamira, M
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Cuba’s TC Mariel container terminal has already planned its transformation into a major trans-shipment hub after the U.S. trade embargo ends, according to terminal general director Charles Baker.
In a recent address to the Caribbean Shipping Association Executives’ Conference held near Port Canaveral, Fla., Baker described surging growth at TC Mariel, its short- and long-term expansion plans, and its strategy to diversify beyond domestic cargo into transshipment.
The PSA International-operated terminal opened in January of 2014. Throughput at Mariel grew 35% in 2015, reaching 330,000 twenty-foot-equivalent units (TEUs) and is up 29% year-to-date, Baker says.
The container terminal has four gantry cranes, 2,296 feet of quay and a capacity of roughly 800,000 TEUs annually. In the next two to three years, another 984 feet of quay will be added so that two post-Panamax ships may berth simultaneously.
Mariel’s channel, deep enough for Panamax ships at present, will be dredged to post-Panamax depths by 2017. Over the longer term, the terminal will add another 5,577 feet of quay and boost annual capacity to 3 million TEUs. There are also plans to add general cargo, dry bulk and roll-on, roll-off terminals to the port.
However, the outlook for Mariel is not without its critics, who note that the port’s location is unsuitable to trans-shipment because the east-west services that pass through the Caribbean on their way to the United States pass by Cuba’s southeast corner—near Guantanamo Bay. Detractors believe that the additional transit time to Mariel would be too great.
Baker, however, believes that Mariel can use its location to its advantage.
He says that Mariel aims to be the first port of call for neo-Panamax container ships after passing through the Panama Canal to the U.S. East Coast, with feeder services providing direct connections from Mariel to Gulf Coast ports in Tampa, Mobile, New Orleans, Houston, and Altamira, Mexico.
“It will be a challenge to attract the bigger post-Panamax vessels to circle into the U.S. Gulf, because there wouldn’t be enough time in their schedules,” says Baker, explaining why carriers would prefer to use a hub to serve Gulf ports.
Baker adds that dropping cargo off in Mariel and trans-loading to smaller “feeder” vessels to Gulf ports would also be more attractive to shippers, given “vastly improved” transit times. “Today, to ship to Mobile, you’ll have to wait for the vessel to sail in and out of Houston and New Orleans before it gets there,” he adds.
About the AuthorPatrick Burnson, Executive Editor Patrick Burnson is executive editor for Logistics Management and Supply Chain Management Review magazines and web sites. Patrick is a widely-published writer and editor who has spent most of his career covering international trade, global logistics, and supply chain management. He lives and works in San Francisco, providing readers with a Pacific Rim perspective on industry trends and forecasts. You can reach him directly at [email protected]
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