DOMINICAN REPUBLIC - Transport
President of the Board of Directors, Maritima Dominicana
Karsten H. Windeler was born in Germany and began his career in the maritime business with a traineeship at a shipping agency in Bremen, and was later certified as a ship agent/broker by the Chamber of Commerce in Bremen. In 1966, he was appointed Owner’s Representative of Continental Lines responsible for the Caribbean, Central America, and Venezuela with an office in Santo Domingo. In 1971, he founded Maritima Dominicano in the Dominican Republic and in 1973 founded Caribetrans, an international freight forwarder. He also co-founded Lineas Maritimas de Santo Domingo in 1975, operating up to seven bulk carriers in the Gulf of Mexico, the Caribbean, Central America, and the north coast of South America.
We are developing a logistics free zone in Puerto Caucedo to work toward that very purpose. I am positive about the country’s potential in this field. The Dominican Republic has the important ingredient of local cargo, which you need to include in order to be profitable. We also provide services for transshipment to other destinations, since the Dominican Republic is the largest market for local cargo within the Caribbean. We are a strong hub for transshipments to smaller countries and ports within the area.
Our goal is to become a service provider for what we call supply chain management; in other words, we want global companies to use the Dominican Republic as an inventory hub for spare parts and products that can eventually be delivered to local customers or clients within the region. The services that we provide involve the management of materials and spare parts inventories that can later on be distributed either locally or abroad.
Each has to manage their own inventory and supply to customers via an in-house system. We then become part of that system as we offer a tailor-made provision of services to our clients. We need knowledgeable personnel to manage our IT systems to the high standards and commercial principles that we live by. And over the past five or six years, we have employed and educated many people who today are capable of doing this, and can successfully integrate them into the companies we work for. We have sent employees on training courses in Panama, the US, and even Europe over the past few years precisely to be able to adapt ourselves to the requirements of our clients.
In the shipping industry, we have departments that undertake container repair and maintenance at all ports of the Dominican Republic. We are also a service provider of spare parts for companies, such as Thermo King and Carrier, which are the major suppliers of refrigeration systems for most of the world’s reefer containers. All global steam ship carriers have reefer containers, but it is impossible to know when they will require repairs to their equipment. Therefore, if we have a local hub here for such spare parts, as well as the ability to provide that service very quickly, this would be an important element of the services that we provide.
We do not focus on one specific sector, as the services we provide are essentially generic; they are not dependent on the companies that require them because containers and reefers are the same, more or less, for all shipping lines. For example, for companies importing or exporting fresh fruits and vegetables, we can store these products in our warehouses and then, according to their requirements, deliver them to their local customers, or to the shipping lines for export.
Each port has a specialized service for different cargo. For example, the main container ports are Caucedo and Haina, but some containers are being handled in Puerto Plata. Haina is focused on bulk cargo, like grain, coal, or fertilizers, and general cargo like steel and lumber, while San Pedro is involved in the export of cement and the import of fertilizers. We are the agents for vessels that deliver or load different cargos depending on the location.
It is much easier to handle the transfer of cargo from the port to the customer when all services are combined, including the handling of cargo at the port, customs clearance, local transportation, the management of inventory where necessary, and then final delivery. Therefore, it is a chain of services that can all be integrated to provide the ultimate delivery of that cargo to the customer.
To be a port agent for liner companies is again what we call a generic service; we handle the port agency of the vessel, crew changes, the supply of spare parts or provisions, and supply drinking water or fuel oil. Those generic services really have nothing to do with the customer services that the liner companies provide to their customers. This is why most liner companies today have their own offices to be in contact with the customer. Basically, generic services can be provided to any principal, even if they compete with each other on a regular basis.
The legal structure that has to do with customs and the local authorities needs to make this distribution system more efficient. If you want to develop a new market of global commerce, you also have to adapt the local legal structure to make it efficient. That does not mean we will violate any government requirements, but the systems have to be modernized, and this is an issue we are currently discussing with the local authorities. A new customs law is currently under discussion in Congress aimed at rendering those services more efficient.
The idea is there, but has yet to be applied. Companies have an excellent opportunity to use the Dominican Republic as a hub, but you have to be able to bring in spare parts without having to declare them in the local market. They should rest in a free zone and then, when they are needed in the local market, they can be declared, but when you want to send them to Barbados for example, you shouldn’t have to pay import taxes on cargo if you are shipping it there. This is one of the issues that the new customs law needs to cover. The same holds true for the export of agricultural products; it has to be coordinated effectively such that when a shipment is delivered to the airport, it does not sit there for hours awaiting agriculture department inspection. If you miss the connection and need to wait until the next day to ship it, the quality of that product will suffer. This is a problem that the local authorities have to understand and help us with so that this service can be improved.
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