A small state with big connections
Though Paraguay is a relatively small state, it benefits from its advantageous location in South America, between Brazil in the north and Argentina in the south. Inland shipping in particular, with barges on the Río Paraguay, the Río Paraná, and calls at the inland port of San Nicolás, is growing steadily. Germany’s Imperial Logistics International is a key player in the expansion of these activities.
Paraguay is bolstering its inland shipping activities – with support from Germany. The Duisburg-based company Imperial Logistics International is one of the latest firms to turn its investment attention to the South American country. Together with its subsidiary Imperial Shipping Paraguay it has operated a link between Corumbá (Brazil) and San Nicolás (Argentina), with ships sailing on the Río Paraguay and the Río Paraná, since the beginning of 2014.
Paraguay’s good business framework
The partnership has also benefited from official support from the authorities. Gustavo Leite, Paraguay’s minister for commerce and industry, said his country provides investors with a good framework in which to do business. «70% of our population is less than 35 years old. This represents a great potential for firms seeking employees here.»
Imperial has made the best use of this fact, recruiting domestic helmsmen and inland shippers. Every push-boat combination is staffed by 14 inland shippers. Their schooling is based on a German quality assurance system. Imperial Shipping Paraguay’s Asunción office has a staff of approximately 150.
Imperial currently deploys four push-boat combinations with twelve lighters each on its Paraguayan routes, which stretch to 3,000 km. The corporation is planning to expand its fleet to seven push-boat combinations with twelve lighters each by the end of 2016. All of these will be built in Paraguay. Iron ore, agricultural products and other dry bulk goods are amongst the most important items transported. In the long term the company hopes to add containers as well as gasses and liquid products.
A round trip takes about four weeks. The push-boat combinations (each one is around 280 m long and 50 m wide) can carry a load of approximately 36,000 t. Imperial’s investments have come to around USD 130 million so far.
The corporation’s Herkules series of push-boats was especially retro-fitted with larger tanks for deployment on the very long riverine routes. They were transported to Argentina on heavylift vessels. The lighters the firm needs were supplied by two Paraguayan shipyards.
Leite wanted to gain his own impression of his country’s collaboration with Germany, so he accompanied a Paraguayan trade mission to Duisburg (Germany) early in October. There he met Imperial Logistics International’s top executives and undertook a short journey on the corporation’s Franz Haniel 14 push-boat. The delegation took the opportunity to gather information on the iron and steel works Hüttenwerke Krupp Mannesmann.
Mutually beneficial activities
Paraguay exports mainly agricultural products (above all soya), and imports chemical products, machinery, vehicles and parts, as well as technical products from Germany. Trade between the latter and Paraguay may have developed positively over the past few years, but in comparison with other partners it remains at a low level. In other words: there is still a great potential to further expand mutually beneficial activities.