Eclac pushes short-distance sea transport

Thursday, June 7, 2007

The UN's Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (Eclac) is promoting short-distance maritime transport to improve connectivity within the region, Eclac official Ricardo Sánchez told BNamericas.

Europe is currently the only region where this model is being carried out, and it has had excellent results, said Sánchez, who is Eclac's economic affairs officer for the natural resources and infrastructure division. Such a model could be similarly implemented in Central America, he added.

But one of the obstacles for the development of transport infrastructure in Central America is the natural risk of events such as hurricanes, volcano eruptions, and earthquakes. This leads to a cyclical need to renew infrastructure in the region, beyond the need of expanding it, he said.

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At the same time, by being bi-oceanic Central America is ideal for the development of the short-distance maritime transport model, he asserted.

The integration plan would not substitute, but complement transport, making up for the lack of highways and almost nonexistent railway networks.

Central American transport ministers met last year and signed the region's first multilateral agreement, and presidents are expected to sign a similar one by year-end, said Sánchez.

These agreements would include reducing the paperwork for the transport of goods within the region, and in that sense Central America would operate as a bloc, reducing transport time and thereby the costs in transporting merchandise from one country to the other.

The same system could be applied to the Caribbean islands, many of which only receive cargo through airports. However, a number of materials cannot be transported by plane, which makes a good case for the success of the model there as well, he said.

If achieved in certain areas of Central America and the Caribbean, other countries would make an effort to follow the trend and it could be expanded to the rest of Latin America, through both maritime and fluvial transport, he added.