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PANAMA - Transport

Juan Carlos Croston

VP Marketing, Manzanillo International Terminal (MIT)


Juan Carlos Croston is Vice President Marketing & Corporate Affairs with MIT-Panama. He worked onboard Panamax-type vessels before joining MIT-Panama. He is a former president of several national and international trade associations and chairs Shark Optimization, an MIT-Panama start-up focused on supply chain optimization. He has co-written articles, contributed to books and is also the co-host of the #NoShippingNoShopping! vodcast. He was granted the Distinguished Alumni Award by the International Maritime University of Panama and was named by Lloyd’s List in its Next Generation 2015 list of worldwide maritime leaders, the only one from Latin America.

"A study showed that from 2010-2018, employment per container move started to fall, though in 2018, when digitalization increased, employment went up."
MIT-Panama’s approach to CSR involves not only external community initiatives, but also internal programs, including employee participation in community activities and supporting employees in completing their degrees.
How did the pandemic impact supply chains and logistics in Latin America, and how did it differ from the situation in the US and Europe?

We have to consider 2022 in the context of COVID-19; supply chains and logistics were affected to various degrees by the pandemic and its underlying effects. In the US and Europe, there was a massive demand for home improvement related items and organic food. South America is a major producer of goods such as avocados, blueberries, bananas, and mangoes, and because Panama is such an important hub for cargo, related activity in 2020 and 2021 grew. The first half of 2022 followed that same trend, though then inflation broke out, and consumption fell. This resulted in fewer containers moving through the system.

How has the introduction of digitalization and new technologies in the company impacted employment dynamics?

People think more digitalization means less employment. A study showed that from 2010-2018, employment per container move started to fall, though in 2018, when digitalization increased, employment went up. Many people are required to run processes and systems, and this is the case for Manzanillo International Terminal too. We were the first terminal in the world to introduce technology for semi-automated ship-to-shore cranes, with which we were able to move the driver from the crane to the office. We are working to use technology to make work easier and safer for our workforce. We are in the process of introducing new systems like OCR; more importantly, we are training people and finding more staff to oversee these systems and analyze and process information. The biggest challenge is keeping up with technology and making sure people can keep up alongside. In MIT, our team believes technology will help them, not replace them. We have new systems to make things more effective while also keeping in mind the social aspect. You also need to provide good jobs to the community—there is a balance.

How has your company’s approach to corporate social responsibility (CSR) impacted both the external community and its employees?

When working on CSR, a company typically focuses on the outside community; however, you also have to take care of the community within. One of the things we did with the MIT Green Run and the Proyecciones Folkloricas is to get MIT people to participate in community activities volunteers. We started this project about six years ago, and it has been a great success because our people are able to experience how the company is positively impacting the community. We also develop community farms in schools and have brought in people from the Ministry of Agricultural Development in Panama to teach people how to plant seeds and take care of chickens for eggs. We were asked to prepare a garden for a jail, and it has since started to grow produce. A year later, we partnered with a university in Colón to teach people personal skills, how to prepare a resume, how to prepare a marketing plan and analysis, and more, once they come out of jail. If we get one of these people to be successful and not incur crime again, this will be a significant gain for the whole community. We are also working on a project along with the Ministry of Education. The program aims to help MIT employees to complete their bachelor’s degrees, and we encouraged many of our talented technicians to join and acquire their degrees. We now have employees who graduated under that program and whose mentors were MIT volunteers. Most of them even sought to carry on with their studies. Some 65% of our budget in Colón for social responsibility is dedicated to children’s education, and we equip schools with labs and tools as well as develop sports programs. We also partner with Sumarse and other foundations as well as film festivals. We are extremely pleased with our efforts thus far.



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