HAVANA, Sept. 26th Several months after completing the dredging of the access channel to the port, begun more than ten years ago to allow the entry of larger vessels,The directors of the Mariel Special Development Zone (ZEDM) regret that not a single one of these vessels, up to 366 meters long, has entered their container terminal.
“The Mariel terminal (…) is still awaiting the arrival of its first Post Panamax ship,” reports OnCuba, to which Mariel executives assured that they are in “negotiations” with several foreign shipping companies.
The eagerness of officials for the entry of vessels such as the Post Panamax or the Neo Panamax – up to 366 meters in length, 52 meters in width (width), and 15 in draft (depth) – lies in the concern that the port, in which million-dollar investments have been made, is not turning out to be as profitable as expected.
Canal widening allows large ships to make direct calls, saving time and money on “transportation costs”
Additionally, the canal widening allows large ships to make direct calls, saving time and money on “transportation costs.”
But Havana’s main interest is for the port of Mariel to become the most important transshipment point in the Caribbean, which would bring with it a substantial injection of capital for the country.
Martín José Spini, general director of the facility, insisted that the characteristics of the port, its geographical location, “security, certification and infrastructure” make the Mariel terminal the ideal option for international shipping companies, and that If no deep-draft ship has been received so far, he assures, it is because of the “complex global economic scenario, resulting from the pandemic, and the United States sanctions, which, among other difficulties, prevent ships arriving to Cuba can touch US ports in the next 180 days.
Without being sure that it will have the success they expect, Mariel’s managers set the bar even higher. Currently, the terminal has a capacity of 800,000 20-foot containers, and an expansion is planned to allow it to receive up to three million containers. However, annual traffic does not exceed 300,000.
“If these obstacles are overcome, and it is able to get closer to what is planned in its Master Plan, the Mariel container terminal would consolidate itself as one of the most important in the region, and a fundamental piece for the Cuban economy, severely affected by the crisis and in need of a commercial and financial injection,” underlines the newspaper, which recalls that Mariel is the “main enclave for attracting foreign investment” with more than 44 companies in operation of the more than 60 approved since the founding of the ZEDM in 2013.
With the creation of the ZEDM, a decade ago, the Cuban Government expected to receive some 12.5 billion dollars in foreign investments
With the creation of the ZEDM, a decade ago, the Cuban Government expected to receive about 12.5 billion dollars in foreign investments, at a rate of 2,500 per year. However, according to figures offered by state media, by 2023, the facility had barely reached $3.34 billion in total investment.
However, both officials and the press ignore the multiple “difficulties” that the terminal has faced in recent years, which have little to do with the US blockade.
At the beginning of September, the ZEDM announced that four years after its establishment in Cuba, the company Suchel TBV S.A – a joint venture with the Vietnamese Thai Binh Detergent Joint-Stock Company –, with an initial investment of 17.6 million dollars, still It was not in operation.
In 2020, the Russian state railway company RZD, which had agreed a year earlier with the Cuban Railways union for the restoration of the island’s railway structure, stopped operations due to recurring non-compliance by the Cuban side.
His plans included modernizing the train system that connects with the port of Mariel. Now, after a Chinese company took over the project abandoned by the Russians in 2022, ZEDM managers promoted the rail connection as a “reliable route” for the transfer of merchandise arriving at the port.
Officials, however, strive to sell the ZEDM as a “project that promotes, through foreign investment, technological innovation and industrial concentration, sustainable economic development, while ensuring environmental protection.”
However, this September 25, according to maritime tracking applications, the port of Mariel has only three vessels on its docks, a container ship from Cyprus, a Panamanian oil tanker, and the Baris Bey boat of the Turkish company Karpowership which, far from protect the environment, as the ZEDM assures, it emits toxic gases and presents a high risk of oil waste spills.