Govt strips company of La Ceiba port concession

Monday, September 11, 2006

Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez has ordered that the concession to operate La Ceiba port be cancelled and control returned to the state, the government website reported.

The port, on the eastern bank of lake Maracaibo in Trujillo state, has been run by the concessionaire consortium Sur Andina de Puerto since 1990, but according to Chávez, this group has failed to invest in modernizing the installations.

"These people have not invested a cent. The state has to go to dredge the port for them... they don't carry out maintenance. They want profits with the minimum investment and we cannot go on like that," Chávez said during his Sunday radio program, Álo Presidente.

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He added that talks had been going on with the concession holders for the last two years, when the national government began spending on the port.

"Here, I give the order publicly. The concession of La Ceiba port is finished," Chávez declared. He has already asked infrastructure minister José David Cabello to move forward with the legal proceedings for the state to take control of the facilities.

"If you have [a port] under concession, you'd better invest, modernize the port, not just exploit it to get rich with the port neglected," added the president, pointing out that he wanted the private sector to invest.

"The private sector itself is going to benefit more from a modernized port for national trade... part of the production from the Andes can be transported from there [La Ceiba] much more cheaply than going by land," Chávez said.