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Curaçao sees growth

Plans for development being kept ‘under the radar’

Curaçao, now in its second year as an autonomous state within the Dutch Kingdom, is on the threshold of a new period of development, and the shipping industry in that country is looking to the future with optimism and eager anticipation. 

Following the dissolution of the state of the Netherlands Antilles on October 20, 2010 new political parties have been formed, elections have been held and plans for development are being drafted or otherwise already being implemented.

A new vision has been created for the country’s maritime sector. The plan involves expanding and upgrading maritime services in and around the five harbours of Curaçao and especially at the port of Willemstad, where the focus is on developing the properties next to the wharves. These plans are part of the harbour policy which is embodied in the economic thrust of the new government.

 

Encouraging

The pains inflicted by the global recession still hurt; but port performance last year, as compared with 2010, was encouraging. The number of ships piloted inwards in 2011 was the same as 2010. Tanker calls increased by 23 per cent. The ISLA refinery (the Refineria ISLA Curaçao, located in Curaçao’s Schottegat harbour) is fully operational again and storage facilities at the port of Bullenbaai have been upgraded. Workboats and platforms have made good use of the ports of Curaçao in recent years and their presence has increased, marginally, by about two per cent. 

Cruise ship calls have increased by 13 per cent as Curaçao’s popularity as a cruise destination increases.

Activities last year at the container terminal, operated by Curaçao Port Services (CPS), compared favourably with 2010. The two gantry cranes are slated for upgrading in the near future. Meanwhile, the maintenance programme has been boosted so as to ensure dependability at this facility.

KTK Tugs, the Curaçao Towage Company, has seen an upturn in local operations because of the increase in vessel calls and is now focusing on optimising its local services in tug assistance and maintenance. Regional and international ventures for towage and salvage are still a high priority for KTK and the company has deployed, through lease arrangements, three of its tugs on the international market.

Curaçao Drydock Company (CDM), once regarded as the most competitive in the entire Caribbean-Latin American region, has come up with a turnround vision. CDM is concentrating on rebuilding this reputation and the implementation of plans towards this end has already begun. Expectations are high as CDM has all the facilities and expertise needed to regain its market share.

The ISLA refinery is in full operation again. The cat cracker and the energy support plant, which had what have been described as ‘operational challenges’ in 2010, have been upgraded and have been functioning satisfactorily for over a year. The spin-off business that the refinery brings to Curaçao is of great economic significance.

The Curaçao Pilots Organisation (CPO) reported improved performance and effectiveness in time management and operations. The skill and professionalism of Curaçao’s pilots, especially over the last 10 years and more, have earned them the reputation of being among the best in the region. Small wonder, since they have to deal with and overcome, daily, the challenges of manoeuvrability posed by the limited berthing space in the port of Willemstad. Emphasis is now being put on registration and automation so as to further improve the daily operations in the ports in which they operate.

Curaçao is seeing growth in cruise ship business. Indeed, the country expects 500,000 cruise visitors this year and there is a strong determination to keep this momentum. Plans for the construction of a second pier just outside the entrance of the port, next to the existing pier, have long been discussed and the new government is resolute in its plans to construct this berth. In preparation for the start of construction of this long-awaited facility and a new cruise terminal, a master plan has been developed. Expectations are for the first foundation stone to be laid this year. This will be a timely move as Curaçao plans to host the 2012 Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association Conference and Trade Show in October.

The port and terminal development in Curaçao have been the focus of the port authority’s efforts this past year, but there has not been a lot of emphasis on publicity and promotion. Indeed, most plans have been kept out of the spotlight.

“Not all ideas, plans or projects need to be high-profile if your main objective is change and sustainability,” said one port executive. “Quality in performance and elevated standards are not tangible virtues. Sometimes it is smart to be discreet and navigate under the radar.”