Singapore firm to manage Cuban container terminal

HAVANA,  (Reuters) – Singaporean port operator PSA  International Pte. Ltd. has quietly signed on to manage a  container terminal under construction at the Cuban port of  Mariel, sources close to the project said this week.

The terminal is part of a larger scheme to develop Mariel  Bay, 28 miles (45 km) west of Havana, into the Caribbean  country’s most important cargo hub and center of light  manufacture.

PSA International won a bid to manage the terminal last  year and had been in negotiations ever since with Mariel  developer Zona de Desarrollo Integral de Mariel, a subsidiary  of the military owned Almacenes Universal S.A.

The sources said the agreement was to manage the port and  did not involve any investment by the company.

Mariel Bay is one of Cuba’s finest along the northern coast  and the port is destined to replace Havana, the country’s main  port, over the coming years.

No further details of the deal were available, but the  sources said PSA International would now actively participate  in planning the terminal, which is scheduled to open by 2014  when larger vessels will begin traversing the Panama Canal, now  being expanded.

The Singapore company operates numerous ports around the  world, including in Panama and Argentina.

The Mariel terminal, which will have an initial 700 meters  (765 yards) of berth, is ideally situated to handle U.S. cargo  if the American trade embargo is eventually lifted, and will  receive U.S. food exports already flowing into the country  under a 2000 amendment to sanctions.

Plans through 2022 call for Mariel to house logistics  facilities for offshore oil exploration and development, the  container terminal, general cargo and bulk foods facilities and  a Special Economic Development Zone for light manufacturing and  storage, the sources said.

Brazil has pledged $800 million so far to finance  construction of infrastructure and port facilities already  under way in conjunction with the Odebrecht group, Brazil’s  largest construction and engineering firm.

Brazilian Presidential Adviser Marco Aurelio Garcia toured  Mariel and met with Cuban President Raul Castro earlier this  year, followed in June by former Brazilian President Luiz  Inacio Lula da Silva.

Garcia said $400 million in financing had already been  disbursed and another $200 million of the promised $800 million  approved. He said an additional loan was under consideration.

Mariel Port will handle vessels with up to a 15 meter (49  feet)  draft, compared with 11 meters (36 feet) at Havana Bay  due to a tunnel under the channel leading into the Cuban  capital’s port.

The terminal will have an annual capacity of 850,000 to 1  million containers, compared with Havana’s 350,000.

Plans call for shutting down all port operations and an oil  refinery at Havana Bay, which, with its excellent real estate  overlooking the water, is to become a recreation area.

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