This week, the Turkish company, Yilport Holdings, began operating the port of Puerto Bolivar Port Authority (APPB) in the province of El Oro. Since then, the concessionaire has announced a possible rate increase for the stowage of the banana boxes, from the trucks to the boats, and for other services. The increase would come into effect next month.
According to Rafael Sapiña, a representative of the multinational Yilport in Ecuador, the rate would go from $0.13 cents ( the current rate) to $0.26 or $0.28.
The announcement caused a stir among exporters and banana producers that use this maritime terminal to market their fruit abroad. "It is logical for people to be concerned, but they need to understand that all the country's infrastructure costs money," Sapiña said.
In response, leaders like Eduardo Ledesma, president of the Association of Banana Exporters of Ecuador (AEBE), rejected the possible rate increase, and said that if the measures were applied, the shippers and exporters would take the decision to export their bananas through the port of Guayaquil.
"The port of Guayaquil charges $ 0.13 for the same work that is done in Puerto Bolivar. It is absurd that they intend to increase the rate when the banana is losing competitiveness. This affects a province where 95% of the exports are bananas; the remaining exports are of other products, such as shrimp, cocoa and paper rolls," said Ledesma.
He also said that if Yilport maintained its position, they would hold a meeting with the forces of the province to prevent the rate rise. "We must understand that El Oro primarily depends on bananas and shrimp."
Despite this, Sapiña said he doesn't see the possibility of lower rates. "If the load has to go to Guayaquil, I do not know what will happen, but the company has to comply with the offer it presented for this initiative. We have crunched our numbers and can't have a lower rate, so it will remain between $0.26 and $0.28," the executive reiterated.
Jorge Alvarez, a producer of bananas, said it was not possible for Yilport, which just took control of the port, to raise rates without having invested in the modernization of the port. "What will happen when they invest?"
1.5 million boxes of bananas are exported through Puerto Bolivar each week, which accounts for 95% of all the cargo at APPB; the other 5% is shrimp, cocoa and other products.
Sapiña said that the gantry cranes would arrive at the port this year, as part of its modernization. Producers, exporters, and the representatives of Yilport are still discussing the issue.