«Mul­ti­mo­dal Hub»

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Excelencias Turísticas del caribe y las Américas (Centroamerica) - - Businesses - By: Ma­ri­bel Her­nán­dez Pho­tos: TETEOLIVELLA.COM

Pa­na­ma is ope­ning up new spa­ces for the sa­le of its pro­ducts over­seas. Ma­nuel Fernandez, ge­ne­ral ma­na­ger of Mis­ter Agro, an agri­cul­tu­ral mar­ke­ting company, is one of the main ad­vo­ca­tes this project has. Sin­ce 1996, his company –bent on pro­du­cing a num­ber of agri­cul­tu­ral ex­por­ta­ble items- has ma­na­ged to put its two top pro­du­ces (me­lons and wa­ter­me­lons) on such mar­kets as Eu­ro­pe and the U.S.

From his po­si­tion as chair­man of Pa­na­ma’s Ex­por­ter Con­sor­tium, de­puty pre­si­dent of the Pa­na­ma Ex­por­ter As­so­cia­tion (APEX) and exe­cu­ti­ve of the Na­tio­nal Or­ga­ni­za­tion of Far­ming Pro­du­cers, Mr. Fernandez tells Ex­ce­len­cias ma­ga­zi­ne the com­mer­cial pers­pec­ti­ves not only of the Cen­tral American na­tion, but al­so of the en­ti­re re­gion from the stand­point of his brand-new re­gio­nal in­te­gra­tion project ca­lled the Mul­ti­mo­dal Hub.

What’s the Mul­ti­mo­dal Hub ac­tually all about?

This project is ar­ti­cu­la­ted as a lo­gis­tic plat­form to gua­ran­tee the trans­por­ta­tion of pro­ducts across the en­ti­re Cen­tral American and South American re­gions, es­pe­cially tho­se na­tions bat­hed by the wa­ters of the Pa­ci­fic Ocean. The idea is to cash in on Pa­na­ma’s con­nec­ti­vity by sea and th­rough mo­bi­le da­ta trans­mis­sion to put them at the fin­ger­tips of La­tin American ex­por­ters.

It’s exactly about the crea­tion of a net­work of IDER ships –fee­derst­hat will ferry in the ex­por­ting con­tai­ners to a Pa­na­ma­nian sea­port. That mer­chan­di­se will be loa­ded on lar­ger freigh­ters and that’ll gua­ran­tee a straight de­li­very of tho­se goods in the Eu­ro­pean mar­ket, both on the north coast and down th­rough the Me­di­te­rra­nean Sea, as well as to the east coast of the U.S.

What’s sta­ge is the project in right now and what does the fu­tu­re hold for this ini­tia­ti­ve?

We’d been to­ying with this idea for the past couple of years be­cau­se we’d no­ti­ced the bad con­di­tions the car­go sys­tem was in and the hard ti­mes our ex­por­ters we­re going th­rough to bring their freight ships ho­me, to the end users. As a res­pon­se to tho­se dif­fi­cul­ties, we came up with the idea of tur­ning Pa­na­ma in­to a car­go sto­ra­ge and transport lo­ca­tion for the who­le re­gion. With that view in mind, we sum­mo­ned all Cen­tral American ex­por­ter guilds and so­me from South Ame­ri­ca, too, li­ke Ecua­dor, Peru and Chi­le.

The out­co­mes of the ne­go­tia­tions laid ba­re that the wea­kest links for all of us we­re trans­por­ta­tion and lo­gis­tics to ta­ke our pro­ducts to the end mar­kets. We de­ci­ded then to form a group and a tech­ni­cal of­fi­ce head­quar­te­red in Pa­na­ma as the laun­ching pad or hub. With the sup­port of all the par­ties, we pro­du­ced what was la­ter known as the De­cla­ra­tion of Pa­na­ma, a do­cu­ment that lays out the fun­ctions of the project. We’ve tra­ve­led all around Cen­tral Ame­ri­ca stra­te­gi­cally and we’ve tou­ched ba­se with all the guilds and go­vern­men­tal lea­ders of such na­tions as Chi­le, Ar­gen­ti­na, Ecua­dor and Co­lom­bia.

The Com­pe­te Pa­na­ma pro­gram we wrap­ped up last year –a joint pro­gram in­vol­ving the VIP and the Pa­na­ma­nian go­vern­ment to stir up com­pe­ti­ti­ve­ness among Pa­na­ma­nian com­pa­nies- hel­ped us put this project to the test, so the bud­get for the fea­si­bi­lity study was fi­nally oka­yed. We ro­lled out an in­ter­na­tio­nal con­test for con­sul­ting com­pa­nies and at the end of the day we pic­ked the fi­nal pro­po­sal from Neat­han As­so­cia­tes. The fea­si­bi­lity study al­so hin­ted that we we­re sup­po­sed to start thing out in the most im­me­dia­te mar­kets And we’ll do so by fos­te­ri­ng not only the ma­ri­ti­me rou­tes, but the air rou­tes as well be­cau­se our country’s geo­grap­hi­cal lo­ca­tion ma­kes air car­go mo­re ef­fi­cient, allo­wing for the use of lar­ger air­craft and brin­ging in air car­go com­pa­nies from ot­her na­tions in or­der to ta­ke tho­se pro­ducts from all around the re­gion to the end users in tho­se mar­kets over­seas.

In ad­di­tion to the geo­grap­hi­cal lo­ca­tion, the­re’s su­perb in­fras­truc­tu­re that we in­he­ri­ted from the Ame­ri­cans, li­ke the Ho­ward air ba­se, that can be tur­ned in­to a ba­se of ope­ra­tions for the en­ti­re re­gion, coupled with the Bal­boa sea­port, the Rot­man sea­port or the new me­ga port project in Far­fan, which is next to it.

In your view, what kind of ap­proach should this project cling to?

We must be crea­ti­ve. It’s about joi­ning for­ces to bring costs down, to buy con­su­ma­bles, to sit down with any world-class trans­por­ter. We need a 21st or 22nd cen­tury mind­set if we really want Pa­na­ma to th­ri­ve as the re­gion’s lea­ding na­tion as far as trans­por­ta­tion and lo­gis­tics are con­cer­ned.

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