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Port Lafito opening

Panamax terminal is major boost for haiti


Rebuilding Haiti after the devastating earthquake of January 2010 has been no easy task; but with both public and private investment it is advancing steadily.

One of the more significant projects has been the development by GB Group of its Port Lafito project, an ambitious multi-million-dollar undertaking to create a panamax container terminal.

The new terminal is situated on some 400 hectares of oceanfront land 20 km north of Port-au-Prince.

Located nearby is the Lafito Global economic zone. It is hoped that this development, the first of its kind in Haiti, will help the country become an economic and industrial hub for the region. When complete, the development will include an industrial free zone, a business park, a residential area, a country club and an ocean club. It is expected to generate some 25,000 jobs by 2020.

With 450 meters of berth and a draft alongside of 12.5 meters, Port Lafito is the deepest-water harbor in Haiti. There are plans in place to lengthen the berth to 900 meters in the future. The new terminal will handle containerized and loose bulk cargo using state-of-the-art equipment. The software for the terminal operating system (TOS) has been developed by Tideworks Technology.

The multipurpose terminal is located alongside Route Nationale 1. Access roads provide links with the main highways to northern, central and southern Haiti.

The chief executive of GB Group, Reuven Bigio, said: “Port Lafito will breathe new life into Haiti by creating new jobs, training for skilled labor and encouraging foreign investment and development. This project will make a significant impact on the national economy and have a beneficial impact on the more than 10 million people that live here. We are proud to announce that the day has come where we can help bring Haiti to the forefront of modern logistics. None of this would have been possible without the support from our public and private partners, for which we are very grateful.”

The inauguration ceremony in July was attended by Haitian dignitaries, government officials and partners who had made the project possible. In addition to Reuven Bigio they included Michel Martelly, President of Haiti; Gilbert Bigio, chairman of GB Group; Carlos Urriola, senior vice president of SSA Marine; and Alix Célestin, general director of the Autorité Portuaire Nationale (APN).

Haiti’s first panamax port will be managed and operated by SSA Marine, the world’s largest private marine terminal operator, in a partnership with GB Group. Two Liebherr LHM 420 mobile harbor cranes, the first of their kind in the Caribbean, have been installed at Port Lafito, and agreements are already in place with Evergreen Marine and King Ocean Services to include Lafito as a port of call.

The Lafito Industrial Free Zone is being developed within Lafito Global to attract international manufacturing companies and revitalize foreign investment in Haiti. The free zone will contain support services and infrastructure including a 25 MW power plant. Tenants will benefit from fiscal advantages extended to manufacturers producing in Haiti for export to the United States.

The whole project has been led by the GB Group through a partnership between the Haitian government, the Haitian private sector and various international financial institutions including the Banque Nationale de Crédit (the Haitian state bank), Capital Bank, Fonds de Développement Industriel, the International Finance Corporation, Nederlandse Financierings-Maatschappij voor Ontwikkelingslanden NV (the Dutch development bank) and Nationale d’Assurance SA.


GB Group is a diverse group of industrial and trading companies in the Caribbean with operations concentrated in Haiti, Dominican Republic, Jamaica and Sint Maarten and offices in the US. It consists of 21 companies in seven divisions: agriculture, construction, consumer goods, infrastructure, energy, logistics and trading.

To strengthen the port’s potential, an international sister seaport agreement was signed between Port Lafito and PortMiami to collaborate on exchanging information and ideas with a view to enhancing trade between the two ports.

Haiti is well on the road to recovery. Thanks in great part to this investment – along with other major projects, including the redevelopment of the national ports in Port-au-Prince and Cap Haïtien and the import of building materials and equipment – Haiti is now seen as one of the strongest economies in the Caribbean region, with forecast growth through 2015 of 3.7 per cent – the second-highest in the region.

Finally, it seems, there is some good news for the beleaguered nation of Haiti.