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Regional logistics hub

12:21 25 de January de 2022 By Daniel Oiticica

The El Salvador strongest bet is to create a new modern and efficient network of ports, airports and railways. Photo: Fabio Lima.

Federico Anliker – President of the Autonomous Executive Port Commission (CEPA as per the acronym in Spanish)

What are CEPA’s main goals in the short and medium term?
The strongest bet of this Government and CEPA is to create a new modern and efficient network of ports, airports and railways, to become a new regional logistics hub. As you know, El Salvador’s geographical location is unique, as you know, and we intend to leverage this capacity to connect internally and within Central America.

One of the major infrastructure projects is the construction of the Pacific Airport. How is it designed and what are its objectives?
The Pacific Airport is an ambitious project that will leverage the eastern part of the country. Also, within an area called Aerotropolis, a city and industry site will be created around the airport, which will not only boost the economy in the area, but will also allow new companies to establish themselves around the airport. Tourism is in full swing, especially with Surf City, which will also be part of this network, and the best way to facilitate it is through an airport. The concept of Aerotrópolis will bring great competitive and economic advantages to El Salvador. At this moment, an experienced airport consortium is involved, conducting studies for this development finalized by 70%. Part of this economic feasibility study will dictate which way to follow, whether it will be a public initiative or a public-private partnership. The great advantage of the latter is that the asset always remains with the State and the operation of the business is simply granted to someone who has the experience.

The Pacific Train is also one of the megaprojects in their portfolio…
El Salvador has had a long railway history for many years. Previous governments put trains in museums. Now, as part of the Cuscatlán Plan, the objective is to reactivate and boost the economy through a rail network. We are working with experts in feasibility studies, and we want to transfer import and export goods through a rail network connecting also Central America. President Nayib Bukele’s vision is one of regional integration. Central America should behave as a single country, considering what its economy represents for the world. We need to be dynamic and to create a rail freight and passenger logistics hub, as we already have in the air sector.

Which are the staged of this project?
The project includes several stages.  First, to link the metropolitan area of San Salvador with our main seaport, the Port of Acajutla. Then, the interconnection of this port with La Hachadura, on the commercial border with Guatemala.

In which way are you cooperating with other countries in the region for this integration?
We have had many meetings with the countries of the region. We also have the financial support of the Central American Bank for Economic Integration (CABEI). Other countries in the region also undertake their own railway development projects: Guatemala’s is very ambitious, while Mexico alread has the Train of the Mayan route. Thus, we believe there is nothing better than connecting with them and other countries. We want everyone to join this great project so that we can energize our economies, with much faster and more efficient borders.

What are the projects for the International Airport of El Salvador?
The International Airport of El Salvador is currently our main entrance gate. Today we operate more than eleven commercial passenger and cargo airlines, and we will soon inaugurate the most modern and efficient terminal in the region. It will have 23 aircraft parking spaces with their respective fingers, which will allow us to feel proud once again of having a first-world airport.

Are you already working with private companies for the cargo terminal at the International Airport?
The cargo terminal of the International Airport of El Salvador is managed by a private company, in the form of public-private partnership. This operation was approved by our Legislative Assembly in August this year. It is the first public-private partnership in the history of the country. They are going to exploit the cargo business in different phases and make million-dollar investments that also include the expansion of the installed capacity of the current cargo terminal. It is worth noting that we have had historical figures at the Airport International Route of El Salvador, with imports and exports of air cargo that reached 27 million kilos.

The Port of Acajutla will go through profound transformations…
Our Port of Acajutla is the main maritime port of El Salvador. In the framework of the Cuscatlán Plan, we are planning to quadruple the current installed capacity. We have already completed the feasibility study and we are seeking financing and fine-tuning details to begin the first construction phase, which will include the expansion of the container yards. We are going to grow up on berths towards the sea. We already have projects to be launched, also part of this internal megaproject of the Port of Acajutla, which will allow us to reach a capacity of up to 800 thousand TEUS (load capacity that has a standard 20-foot container) per year.

How can foreign investors be part of these projects?
Regardless of the project, transparency and legal security towards investors come first. Obviously, they need benefits, working hand in hand with the Government. As the Autonomous Executive Port Commission, our role is to facilitate investments with agile and expeditious procedures, and to get the expected results. Investors should be confident about our focus. Companies can come to settle and operate in a totally transparent environment, always with the support of the institutions involved.

What can foreign investors who expect to find in the country?
Our country is economically in vogue. We are going to have an unprecedented growth this year, with a highly articulated government. The country’s growth in 2021, despite the pandemic, is going to be historic. There are companies that have already settled in the country, success stories within the orbit of ports and airports. We have shown them how much we care about foreign investment and how beneficial they are for the country. Investors will find a friendly government, with doors opened to peace-of-mind investments.

How can you explain the country’s growth in such a hostile global context?
Good decisions by our president Nayib Bukele. As far as the pandemic goes, it was admirably managed. We have been a world leader in how the virus has been controlled and how we manage our health network, which was totally devastated. Many branches of the State are having very positive results, even in this pandemic context.