Editorial / 24 Mar 2024

Trinidad’s transshipment trade opportunities

by Ravindu Rodrigo, Managing Director of GAC Caribbean

More and more vessels are looking to Trinidad and Tobago as a viable transhipment option as prolonged drought continues to present challenges and restrictions for vessels passing through the Panama Canal.

That presents an opportunity that the small Caribbean nation – strategically placed just 2,000 miles from the Canal – is ready to grasp.

Ravindu Rodrigo MD GAC Caribbean

Trinidad has evolved into a notable dry bulk hub. Its well-developed port facilities, ground-based husbandry support services and logistical infrastructure make it a key player in handling and transporting bulk commodities in the region. It has grown in prominence in recent years as a major transshipment hub for key trading routes connecting with North America, South America and Asia. What’s more, its dry dock facility can accommodate significantly deeper drafts than comparable facilities in Guyana or Suriname.

The ship-to-ship transfer facility in the deep waters of the Gulf of Paria enables the transfer of crucial cargoes such as coal, iron ore, petcoke and bauxite into larger vessels that are then able to make more environmentally friendly and cost-effective voyages to the Middle East and Asia.

The Gulf’s deep draft makes it a natural choice for larger vessels including those offloading cargo for transhipment to smaller ships for their onward voyages. It is also an ideal location for taking on bunker fuels or other supplies and crew changes.

Trinidad and Tobago’s maritime story is not defined by its dry bulk capabilities alone. The energy sector is a major contributor, accounting for almost 45% of the country’s GDP. Its Phoenix Park Gas Processors Limited (PPGPL) natural gas liquids (NGL) complex is one of the largest natural gas processing facilities in the Western Hemisphere, making the small nation the world’s seventh largest global producer of LNG, with key exports to the Americas, Asia and Europe.

The Ministry of Works & Transport’s document ‘Snapshot of 2023 and The Way Forward for 2024’ reported that the Port Authority of Trinidad and Tobago achieved significant success in its container handling in 2023. A total of 317,322 TEUs were handled at Port of Spain, surpassing its volume growth target by 6% and achieving an overall 10% increase compared to 2022 – the highest volume since 2014.

Trinidad’s appeal as a centre for shipping operations goes beyond its well-established maritime infrastructure. It boasts the highest number of commercial flight connections in the region – a key factor for seamless crew changes.

Another recent initiative is the onland development of Trinidad’s Phoenix Park. Operational since 2023, the park offers 144 acres of premium industrial estate, sub-divided into 78 leasable lots supported by all the necessary infrastructure and services.

The Special Economic Zone policy for Trinidad & Tobago allows and encourages foreign investment. GAC helps many principals take advantage of the benefits this offers by navigating them through the fine details of the policy.

Growing to meet demand
The outlook for Trinidad and Tobago’s shipping industry in 2024/2025 looks optimistic as volumes grow and more operators take advantage of its location and infrastructure.

GAC will be strengthening our shipping operations in Trinidad and elsewhere in the Caribbean to support regional growth in the region and meet demand for the services we provide. The importance of working with a reliable, ethical agent with a solid track record cannot be overstated.

With our head office at San Fernando and a presence at eight major ports across Trinidad, GAC provides an extensive range of ship agency services to vessels either calling at the ports or staying offshore for a ship-to-ship transfer of cargo. We also provide comprehensive shipping and logistics support functions at the key Chaguaramas hub.

Our integrated approach ensures efficient support while transshipment operations continue for dry cargo business.

GAC Trinidad's Dry Bulk team: Katelyn Baptiste – Operations Assistant, Ayola Hercules – Assistant Manager Shipping, Delicia Villaroel – Commercial Head, Amar Harrykissoon – Boarding Officer and Duane Vincent – Operations Executive (seated).

GAC Caribbean is a beacon of ethical business practices in the region. The company's commitment to following protocols, its readiness to say no when necessary, and its dedication to staff training through the GAC Corporate Academy (GCA) are crucial elements in fostering a culture of integrity and compliance.

Burgeoning dry bulk, energy and containerised business is contributing to what looks like a bright future for Trinidad and Tobago’s shipping sector.

Our experienced. professional team of knowledgeable local experts have earned a reputation for their flexibility in meeting changing vessel and cargo requirements. And GAC’s ability to support a diverse range of cargoes and vessel types is one of the reasons that it has risen to prominence in the region.

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