Wednesday, October 14th 2009 - 10:19 UTC

Montevideo port becomes most advanced container terminal in South America

Uruguay inaugurated this week the new Montevideo’s port facilities which will expand handling to over 1.1 million containers annually making it the most advanced terminal of South America.

Pte. Tabare Vazquez with Belgian ambassador Cristina Funes-Noppen during the ceremony.

The new facilities also include an additional 15.7 hectares of land for container storage reclaimed from the sea and a quay 350 metres long by 35 metres wide which can handle 14 metres draught vessels.

A total of nine straddle cranes, four of them which can operate with 11.000 TEU vessels (double the current capacity) have been incorporated, which means 80 to 100 movements per hour.

The investment by the Belgian group Katoen Natie Terminal Cuenca del Plata which manages Montevideo’s port terminal since 2002 was estimated in 180 million US dollars and was praised by Uruguayan president Tabare Vazquez during a ceremony which also counted with the attendance of three former heads of state.

“This is an example of private and public successful understanding which has brought together foreign and Uruguayan investors”, said Vazquez who underlined that foreign investors choose to come because “Uruguay is a serious, responsible country which honours its commitments and obligations and grants security and confidence”.

Vazquez added that the completion of the terminal and the new facilities was not the job of an only administration, “but of all Uruguayans”, evidence of political, social, production and labour stability. He then invited the three former presidents to participate in the unveiling of a plaque to commemorate the event.

The legal framework for the new port administration was drafted and approved in 1992 under the administration of former president Luis Alberto Lacalle and eight years later in 2000, under the administration of ex President Jorge Batlle the terminal was auctioned opening the way for the current expansion.

Public Works minister Victor Rossi pointed out the significance of Katoen Natie initiative since “without funds and know-how from the private sector the government would not have been able to complete this ambitious project”.

“The inauguration today is the culmination of a long process which has evolved under different administrations and has become a reality which enriches Uruguay’s services’ sector, creates jobs and benefits the whole country”, said Rossi.

However he admitted that when the current administration was in the opposition it had strongly objected to the project “under strong suspicions of speculation, investigations, scandals and heated arguments in Parliament”.

Belgian ambassador Cristina Funes-Noppen remarked the significance of the new facilities and new straddle cranes which make the port of Montevideo one of the most competitive of the region. She also mentioned a growing interest of Belgian investors in Uruguay and praised the fact that is spite of the global crisis bilateral trade with Uruguay has kept growing.

On the sidelines of the distended ceremony ex President Battle asked his peer Vazquez “what’s next week’s inauguration?” in direct reference to the fact that seven days ago all Uruguay’s main political leaders had been invited to the inauguration of the new air terminal at Carrasco airport.

As with the port, the air terminal under private concession was a project planned and agreed under several administrations.

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