By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
THE Bahamas’ ranking as the Caribbean’s leading logistics performer is “just the tip of the iceberg” when it comes to this nation fulfilling its transhipment potential, a Cabinet Minister said yesterday.
Ryan Pinder, the minister of financial services, said the Bahamas’ relatively high ranking in the World Bank’s ‘Connecting to Compete 2014’ report showed the country was poised to attract extra shipping/logistics business resulting from the Panama Canal expansion’s completion in 2015.
The Bahamas was ranked 66th out of 160 nations in the World Bank’s Logistics Performance Index, which measures trade logistics in the global economy.
This nation’s score of 2.91 was almost 39 per cent below that achieved by the top performer, Germany, but the World Bank placed this nation ahead of all Caribbean rivals, including the Dominican Republic, three spots below at 69th.
Mr Pinder told Tribune Business of the report’s findings: “That would indicate what we have been saying all along; that we believe the Bahamas has an infrastructure already in place to leverage the development of value-added trade with the rest of the world, but also to attract much of the transhipment business expansion that will come from the Panama Canal expansion.
“It indicates the potential and the success underway with regard to transhipment. This is just the tip of the iceberg.”
The Minister added that the owners of the Bahamas Oil Refining Company (BORCO), one of the largest offshore petroleum product storage hubs in the world, and the likes of Polymers International and Pharmachem had all recognised the extra value created by this nation’s geographical and strategic positioning.
“That demonstrates the capability of the Bahamas and Freeport to be a transhipment, logistics hub,” Mr Pinder said, describing this as a “shared vision” between the Government and Grand Bahama Port Authority (GBPA).
He added that the planned $250-$300 million Freeport Container Port expansion, which will facilitate the throughput of an extra 1,000 shipping containers per annum, was also intended to “take advantage of our positioning and capabilities”.
Mr Pinder said the Container Port’s growth would help further develop industry and large-scale commerce in Freeport, hence Prime Minister Perry Christie’s hints this week that he is considering whether to remove some of the 2013-2014 Budget’s new and increased taxes from Freeport.
The 1 per cent Customs administrative processing fee has previously been cited as a potential impediment to the Container Port’s expansion by its majority owner, Hutchison Whampoa, and largest customer, Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC).
And it also remains to be seen whether the current dispute between the Freeport Harbour Company and BORCO on one side, and their former (and departing) pilots in the Bahamas Marine Pilots Association (BMPA) has any impact on these plans and the Bahamas’ logistics status.
Mr Pinder said the Bahamas already possessed a significant competitive advantage over its Caribbean rivals, because while they were talking about developing a logistics and transhipment hub, “the Bahamas is already there”.
“We have the infrastructure and capacity, and it’s something the others don’t,” he added. “We’re just looking to build on that.”