Terminal decline

Activity at Venezuela's Puerto Cabello in serious decline.

Activity in Venezuela’s Puerto Cabello maritime terminal, in Carabobo, has declined enormously over recent years. A lack of investment and maintenance of the terminal’s facilities, coupled with electricity shortages and the erratic economic policies of the government are the main reasons behind this dramatic fall.

The author of a report from the Center for the Disclosure of Economic Knowledge (CEDICE) entitled, ‘Ports and Maritime Commerce: The Venezuelan Case, 2020’, explained, “The main problems with Venezuelan ports are: little draft, poor security, lack of suitable cranes, inadequate services for piloting, towing, launching etc and a cost per touch four to nine times higher than neighbouring countries.”

“The main problems […] are: little draft, poor security, lack of suitable cranes, inadequate services […] and cost .”

Author, Center for the Disclosure of Economic Knowledge

Corruption is also a problem, reported a Venezuelan maritime lawyer, “Ports have always been associated with corruption in Venezuela. The whole system is characterised by bureaucracy with poorly qualified people, an irrational permitting system and the involvement of the National Guard, creating the ideal environment for corruption. Multinationals have always had problems here, as an example, recall the case of the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) against Pride International, for violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (“FCPA”).”

“Ports have always been associated with corruption in Venezuela.”

Maritime lawyer, Venezuela

Venezuela’s Ministry of Transport is carrying out a public consultation through the National Institute of Water Spaces to write a National Development Plan for Ports to understand the current needs of the seven industrial ports in the country, which were nationalised in 2009 by Hugo Chávez. Consultations will include private companies operating in the logistics sector which could bring much needed investments to Venezuelan ports.  

Not before time, exclaimed the maritime lawyer, “It is clear that Venezuela needs to invest in the modernisation of its ports but given the political and economic environment it is practically impossible to get experienced, foreign private companies to operate here. This has forced the government to sign ‘Strategic Alliances’ with national companies that lack experience and track record and are often controlled by the military.”

In 2010, Bolipuertos, the Venezuelan port authority, announced that China Harbour Engineering Company would build a new terminal in Puerto Cabello to allow the operations of Panamax container ships of 70,000 DWT. The project was valued at USD 520 million and was expected to create 3,000 jobs but, almost a decade later, it has not been completed. 

Despite the National Development Plan for Ports, the government does not have an integral plan to overturn the inefficiency of the ports system in the country. The government in Caracas is hoping the situation will improve after the US Treasury Department authorised the use of Venezuelan ports again earlier this year.

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