Seatrade Maritime is part of the Informa Markets Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them. Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.


New portal could bring Panama's Atlantic and Pacific coasts together

A new port community-type system that could transform competing container terminals in Panama into an integrated port complex serving both Atlantic and Pacific oceans is under development.

Delegates at this week’s TOC Americas Container Supply Chain event in Cartagena heard how terminals, encouraged by Advent Intermodal, were beginning to work together to develop the Portal for Panama to increase cargo visibility through a single, centralised information hub.

Stephen Shaffer, president of Colon Container Terminal, said: “Up till now there has been a bit of gap in terminal transfers, and what we are ultimately trying to provide with this platform is a Panamanian base for our customers – no one terminal can handle all the volumes, but collectively we can and this platform allows a diverse group of customers to have trust in the overall system

Allen Thomas, chief strategy office at Advent International, said: “Panama is a different place to many ports because it is small but very fragmented and with very intense competition between the terminal operators – and it is a challenge for terminal operators to retain their volumes because the carriers are looking for efficiency and there are lots of other transhipment options in the region.

“Our intention was to create a platform to foster collaboration between the disparate operators,” he said.

The portal’s architecture is based on fulfilling three key aims: firstly to create a single place where any stakeholder in Panama can go to and be able to integrate that directly with their platform.

Secondly, it intends to introduce a vehicle booking system for terminals’ truck gates, which have proved so effective in reducing congestion on roads around terminals and at their gates elsewhere in the world.

Thirdly, there will ultimately be an automated fee payments and collection functionality.

“We have now completed integration with Manzanillo International Terminal (MIT) and we are starting to test with CCT,” Thomas said.

Juan Carlos Croston, vice president of marketing and corporate affairs at MIT, explained that one of the challenges facing terminal operators Panama who are dealing with inter-terminal transfers is reducing the normal seven days it takes for a box to move from one coast to the other.

“The network configuration of the shipping lines means that they have it in their minds that the transfer can be done in five days, and it has been up to us to prove that it can be done.

“But to do it consistently we need the sort of visibility this portal will provide – at he moment we have 100% visibility at the berth, and 0% once it has left the gate,” he said.

Mario Perez Balladares, managing director of Panama Transhipment Group (PTG), a haulier that undertakes inter-terminal transfers, said that there are three options for boxes to cross the country – on board vessels via the canal itself; on the Panama Canal Railway Company’s trains; or through his fleet of trucks.

He said that the railway is able to transport around 1,000 boxes per day, while PTG has capacity for around 700 boxes per day.

He said the transparency the portal promised would be key to improving productivity: “7% of the world’s trade moves through Panama, and the country and the way we do business is going to be watched by the global commerce – we have to have transparency and we need to have a consensus amongst the port community here to see it though otherwise Panama will be jeopardised.

“We are carrying 700 boxes each day but we have to be very careful about what we are carrying – there is a lot of money laundering and other activities and doing due diligence is really, really important,” he said.

The 19th version of TOC Americas took place from 29 - 31 October in Cartagena de Indias, Colombia, October 29-31. For more information, please visit: