Master concession favoured for El Salvador

Acajutla Port
Industry Database

Hugo Barrera, president of El Salvador's national ports authority, CEPA, has told Port Strategy that, of the 14 parties to show an interest in the country's ports privatisation programme, 85% favour a Master Concession. Signficantly, any concession could also include the national rail network.

Once CEPA has concluded the definitive model to be adopted, legislation will have to be passed in parliament to allow the entire port system to be handed over to a concessionaire, which will be for a period of 25-30 years. Pre-qualification is expected to be undertaken in the first quarter of next year, with an award scheduled for August 2008. Both DP World and Katoen Natie have indicated a strong interest in the concession.

Forming part of the bundle will be the existing port of Acajutla and the under-construction port of La Unión. While the former was conceived of as a bulk handling facility, it witnessed a 22% hike in box traffic last year, with throughput of 123,000 teu; for this year, a further 17% increase in forecast. This growth in box traffic, says port director Francisco Portillo, is mainly the result of a 25% cut in port rates introduced three years ago, but also reflects the growing containerisation of cargo in the region. To date, it is the only port in the country capable of handling containers, he adds.

While La Unión will also handle bulks, its deep draught will also allow it to accommodate containerships of up to 6,500 teu. The location of this new facility could result in a regional transhipment hub being established there, says project director Santiago Aguilar. The initial 500,000 sq m phase, being built by the TOA Jan de Nul consortium, is scheduled to enter operation in November 2008 at a cost of $131m.

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