During the meeting, the head of Quetzal Port Company (EPQ), Fernando Almendares, pointed out that his organisation simply didn\’t have either the financial or technological capability to build a container terminal with existing resources. Juan Carlos Paiz, the head of the presidential commission for competition, stressed that the port was also increasingly less competitive in terms of services.
\”Vessels are making annual losses of US$8.82m due to the combined 6300 hours of waiting time that they are having to endure prior to being handled in the port,\” he said.
However, the concession is opposed by the port unions, who point out that more than 50% of the existing handling equipment is currently not available, awaiting repair. They fear that once TCQ is up and running container vessels will no longer call at existing terminals.
Significantly, the three members of the Transparency Commission of Congress have sent the president a letter, in which they state that, under existing legislation, the concession is actually illegal, although a lawyer for EPQ refutes this, pointing out that port companies are within their rights to award concessions.
The 348,171 m² terminal, which will be developed in three phases, will require investment totalling US$250m. In an initial phase, costing US$120m, a 300 metre long quay will be built over a period of two years. This will eventually be extended to 540 m as part of a second phase, which it is forecast will be implemented by the 8th or 9th year of the concession.
Capacity will be 800,000 teu; at present, Puerto Quetzal is handling up to 350,000 teu, although the nominal capacity of the port is just 250,000 teu.
Although the Barcelona-based TCB is currently the only shareholder in TCQ, in line with company policy on overseas concessions, it is expected to link up with a local partner in the near future. It says that the terminal should generate around 400 jobs, something which is disputed by the port unions, who claim that existing stevedoring operations within the port will actually lose up to 80% of existing container traffic to TCQ.