Key factors: Dependability, Sustainability, Connectivity, Informatics

The Port of Cartagena, the second largest container terminal in the Caribbean, after Panama, sees its biggest challenge in 2022 as sustaining its global reputation for efficiency and reliability, while riding the current waves of disruptions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Our biggest challenge in 2022 is to continue to be a reliable port despite a disrupted environment,” said Giovanni Benedetti, Head of Marketing at Colombia’s major seaport facility.

To meet this challenge, Cartagena has established a four-point strategic plan for the year ahead. It is based on sustainable and reliable operations, infrastructure capacity, connectivity; and, technology and innovation.

In order to deliver and sustain efficiency and reliability, the strategy is to transition to even more automated operations.  The first step towards that objective, according to Benedetti in an interview with Portside Caribbean’s Editor-in-Chief, Mike Jarrett, is to complete the electrification of the rubber-tyred gantry (RTG) equipment.

MJ: What are the top four priority plans for Cartagena port and terminals in 2022?

Giovanni Benedetti

GB: As global trade changes, Port of Cartagena (GPC) has set strategy goals to achieve in the short term that align with the long-term vision of the company.

We are focusing our efforts in four main perspectives: sustainable and reliable operations, infrastructure capacity, connectivity, and technology and innovation:

  • Leverage our growth based on environmentally friendly energy sources. Sustainable and reliable energy will allow us to be more efficient in the use of equipment.
  • Increase port efficiency. In addition to being environmentally and economically sustainable, using eco-friendly energy sources is the first step to automation of our yard equipment, RTGs. This transition will allow us to provide more efficient and reliable service to our customers.
  • Consolidate our position as the best port in the Caribbean. Strengthening our strategic alliances with main shipping lines will allow us to increase our connectivity which, in turn, will provide the basis for our long-term relationship commitments to both shipping lines and domestic customers.
  • Use of technology and data analytics as an organisational capability. Within the company, we have set a model that is based on close and open innovation, and an employee’s innovation programme. This model will allow us to be at the forefront of market trends and to use disruptive technologies to efficiently scale up our productivity.

MJ: Which of your priority plans do you expect to deliver the greatest success on in 2022/ 23?

GB: Nowadays, ports around the globe face many challenges due to the continuing trend of shipping lines having bigger vessels, aiming to achieve greater economies of scale. This trend implies that container volumes are concentrated in fewer port calls while requiring ports to increase productivity so as not to lose competitiveness.

Cartagena, Colombia

In our quest to be in the top five container ports in the Americas (by volume), Port of Cartagena needs to be one of the most efficient and reliable in the region. To offer efficiency and reliability is paramount for us to transition to a more automatic operation. The electrification of our RTG equipment is the step forward to achieve this goal. This automation will increase our operation’s productivity, security and the predictability of our operations.

MJ: What do you regard as Cartagena’s greatest challenges in 2022?

GB: With increasing port bottlenecks, rising ocean rates, and shortage of containers, the world is experiencing a supply chain crisis that requires disruptive solutions and operational flexibility.

In addition to the crisis, the industry is experiencing shifts of customer requirements and global commerce, which require ports to be more than just the link between sea and hinterland logistics but also facilitators of the customer’s supply chain. Thus, our biggest challenge in 2022 is to continue to be a reliable port despite a disrupted environment.

Photo courtesy of Sociedad portuaria de Cartagena

MJ: What are the concerns about the year ahead?

GB: The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated adaptation of new technology in the port and logistics industries. We have experienced a rise of new technologies that are re-defining the way the world does business. Our main concern is keeping up with this technology transition. In order to be at the forefront of this global trend, we have developed an innovation model within the company that will allow us to add value to our port and terminal services in a 4.0 world. We intend to launch easy, visible, trackable “port-to-door” solutions for shippers using the Port of Cartagena.

MJ: Has the current global pandemic created a need for change in long-term strategy?

GB: Although it has brought many challenges to our company and the supply chain industry, the current global pandemic has accelerated port plans to diversify our service portfolio. It has strengthened our domestic market share and has set a great platform for in-house innovations and technology adaptation.

Despite the many changes the industry is currently experiencing, our long-term vision remains aligned with global trends. But this disruptive environment makes it absolutely necessary to use vanguard technology to provide efficient and flexible operations of our port and terminal services.

MJ: What Climate Change plans are now active or to be implemented in 2022?

GB: The Port of Cartagena has set the running of operations in an increasingly efficient and sustainable way as one of its main strategic goals. Right now, the Port is doing a sustainable transition of our yard equipment by electrification of our RTGs and MHC. Also, we are shifting as much as we can to renewable energy sources.

Installation of 6,000 solar panels in our 22,000 m2 warehouse roof and LED lighting have helped us to save more than 3,500 tons of CO2 per year. We continue to explore new alternatives, big or small. Even our cars and motorcycles are now electric. —[]