Maritime Transport: Too Expensive to Be Sustainable

Currently, transporting goods by sea between Central American countries can increase freight costs by at least 60% compared to the land option, which represents an obstacle to changing the way goods are transferred in the region.

Thursday, June 4, 2020

As a result of the closure of the Penas Blancas customs crossing, on the border between Costa Rica and Nicaragua, some businessmen in the region had to resort to the sea route in order to deliver their orders.

See "Central America: Disruption of the Logistics Chain"

The closure of the transit took place after Costa Rica unilaterally decided that as of May 18 only transporters who make direct transit from border to border would enter Costa Rican territory, whose units must be subject to police surveillance.

Costa Rican authorities went to this extreme, arguing that they are trying to mitigate the outbreak of covid-19, and Nicaragua responded by closing its border post.  The commercial blockade was lifted until May 31, after the Central American countries reached an agreement.

Check out the "System for Monitoring Markets and the Economic Situation in Central American Countries", developed by CentralAmericaData.

Sergio Capon, general manager of Impresora Delta, told that "... during the regional land transport crisis I had to send a van to Guatemala and another to Panama, by sea, with packaging material manufactured by Impresora Delta. The cost of this transport was higher between 50% and 80% than the land one, but I had to do it to meet the customers' needs, because the companies have an established schedule."

The publication states that "... costs can imply a 60% increase, only from port to port. If the final destination is internal to the countries, the total increase can be up to 110%, said Procomer in a written response to consultations from La Nación."
When land transport becomes difficult to move around the region, as is the case recently or for the 2018 political crisis in Nicaragua, the issue of operating a cargo ferry between El Salvador and Costa Rica comes back to the fore. However, after several years, this has only remained in the planning stage.

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More on this topic

Cargo Ferry Between La Union and Caldera Back On the Table

July 2018

In order to minimize some of the impact that the Nicaraguan crisis has had on intraregional trade, the governments of Costa Rica and El Salvador have announced that they are now in a position to start ferry operations.

After unsuccessfully trying to implement this maritime cargo transport option, in May of last year the Spanish shipping company Odiel decided to end the negotiation process to operate the ferry, due to a disagreement over the setting of tariffs that would have to be charged for the service. Since then, the project has been forgotten.  

Bureaucracy and the Ferry Between La Union and Caldera

July 2016

A year after the announcement, the project to establish a marine cargo ferry between El Salvador and Costa Rica remains on paper.

Although it had been announced that the service would begin in late July 2016, it seems that the idea of a ferry transporting goods between the ports of Costa Rica and El Salvador at a base cost of $800 will not happen, at least for now.

Study on Regional Maritime Cargo

April 2013

The preliminary results have been released from a feasibility study on the development of a Short Sea Shipping service in Mesoamerica.

As part of this project, a feasibility study was conducted over the last 12 months, which assessed the movement of cargo from ports with international traffic in the 49 countries that make up the Mesoamerican block (Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, Colombia and the Dominican Republic).

Regional Coastal Trade on Pacific Coast

June 2012

A feasibility study has been started on a freight system between the Pacific ports of the region using shallow draft boats.

Launched six years ago, the project has now been reactivated in response to the need to seek alternatives to the increase in freight rates.

The goal is "to accelerate intraregional trade, by eliminating the passing through customs, as happens with land transport."