FZW talks to Morten Johansen about maritime trade and free zones in the Dominican Republic and Latin America

What kinds of transport and logistics considerations are especially important in Latin American / Caribbean maritime trade?

As in any other region maritime trade in Latin America and the Caribbean requires us to focus on, among other important aspects, compliance, reliability, productivity and security. Ports, as the country’s most important window to the world, have to deal with several stakeholders which includes shipping lines, importers, exporters, logistics operators, freight forwarders, customs agents, trucking companies among others. Our responsibility and challenge is to ensure that all stakeholders are not only satisfied with our quality of service, but also we are required to provide the necessary tools to enable them to be more effective in what they do; therefore our role is to increasingly become enablers of trade, providing accurate and reliable information, high levels of operational efficiency, while at the same time safeguarding the integrity of the cargo and complying with local and international regulations. IT integration is equally important as technology allows for increased visibility of the supply chain and time and cost reduction opportunities. Nevertheless, one thing we know for certain is that nothing is 100% predictable except for change, so by having well defined and robust processes we place ourselves in a position to easily adapt to whatever change or situation that arises in the market.

The Dominican Republic’s free zones are a Latin American and global success story. What special conditions present in the Dominican Republic made DP World interested in establishing a marine terminal and free zone?

The Dominican Republic is a country with an enviable geographic position within the Americas region and is equidistant to major markets, allowing us to develop efficient world-class solutions not only for local companies but also for companies with regional logistics needs. This, added to the country having vast availability of qualified labour, a solid track record of political stability, strong presence of multinationals with main manufacturing hubs located in the country, as well as a very attractive local market with a population of approximately 11 million and bordering Haiti with an additional 11 million people, have done nothing but deepen our commitment to the country. The port’s close proximity to the capital of Santo Domingo and its adjacent proximity to an international airport were other definitive factors that sparked initial interest and have served as pillars of our vision.

How does the DP World Caucedo free zone benefit from DP World’s experience developing world-class free zones in Dubai and elsewhere?

Logistics is ever-changing and companies are constantly looking for ways to differentiate themselves from their competition, placing increased focus on making their supply chain more flexible and adaptable so to quickly and effectively adjust to any change. That’s where we come in: with our experience developing similar projects around the world, we’ve come to understand that the future of our business depends on how much value we can provide and create for our customers, and having the opportunity to develop such a solution at the epicenter of the Americas was and is an opportunity we could not overlook. We understand that we’re an essential component of the global supply chain and our focus is on getting closer to cargo owners and supporting the movement of goods to and beyond our terminal; our vision is to lead the future of world trade and our goal is to enhance and expand our customers horizons so to create a brighter future to all our stakeholders. Our previous experience has helped us understand what our customers look for in logistics platforms such as these, and in the case of Caucedo we’ve had the incredible opportunity to include some of these aspects from its inception, always understanding that our solution has to be innovative and flexible enough to allow for companies to increase their efficiency.

What are the next steps that you see Latin American free zones taking in terms of attracting investment from particular industries or expanding the model in the region?

Free zones developers need to understand that their role is changing and there’s an increased urgency for them to expand their role in global supply chain and focus on creating more value to their customers. For the model to expand it needs to transcend and can no longer focus on being exclusively infrastructure providers, it needs to create additional value that can help customers increase the focus on their core business. It needs to evaluate how to integrate technology into their projects so to provide more visibility for customs authorities to be more effective, thus reducing human interaction and allowing for more expedited processes; it needs to rethink and integrate into customers’ businesses, to help them remove duplication, optimise costs, maximise efficiency, smooth the customers’ experience, and create new opportunities in the value chain. We understand that each case and country is different, and we’ve experienced that operating over 77 terminals in five different continents, but the burden’s on us to rethink our role and move further up and down the supply chain and integrate our business with that of our customers.