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El Periódico del Azulejo | Sábado, 25 de noviembre de 2017

TRANSPORTE / TRANSPORT

El empuje del azulejo lleva al puerto de Castellón a batir récords / PortCastelló consolidates its strong economic position

Toledo cree que podría crecer «por encima del 6%» a pesar de la «dramática» caída de Argelia, el 4º destino. PortCastelló creará «más de 300» empleos hasta el 2021 al invertir 17,5 millones de media al año / The port now has the second lowest percentage of operating costs over income and is well below the state average of income dedicated to debt servicing

RAMON OLIVARES RUIPÉREZ (el Periódico Mediterráneo)
13/09/2017

 

El puerto de Castellón prevé continuar por la senda del crecimiento el año que viene. Tras las excelentes cifras de tráfico que está cosechando en este 2017 (acumula un incremento del 10,85% hasta julio), para el próximo ejercicio augura que seguirá «batiendo el récord» de mercancías con un aumento que podría estar «por encima del 6% perfectamente» si se mantiene el alza de la actividad económica, afirmó ayer el presidente de la Autoridad Portuaria, Francisco Toledo. Y ello se debe sobre todo gracias a la industria cerámica, el pilar en que se asienta el auge de los muelles castellonenses.

Toledo lanzó estas previsiones para el 2018 en la rueda de prensa en que hizo balance de sus dos años al frente de PortCastelló. La valoración fue de lo más positiva. Tras destacar que la refinanciación de la deuda ha permitido a la Autoridad Portuaria embarcarse en nuevas inversiones, resaltó el aumento de ingresos «a pesar de la reducción de las tasas», gracias a la llegada de nuevas líneas y al aumento de tráficos. Esto permitirá a PortCastelló, si se confirman las previsiones de Puertos del Estado para este año, convertirse en el tercero más rentable de España «escalando desde la octava posición del 2014».

En el incremento de tráficos destaca, como ya se ha dicho, el de los graneles sólidos, debido a la importación de materias primas cerámicas, para lo cual se ha habilitado «90.000 metros cuadrados» de la dársena sur como explanadas para acopiarlas. Allí «se han implantado importadores y empresas de referencia en el sector», señaló Toledo. Asimismo, la exportación de azulejo es otro de los segmentos que más crece. Y ello a pesar de la «dramática» caída de Argelia debido al cierre a la exportación azulejera castellonense. El envío al cuarto destino del puerto cae así «un 95%».

PUERTO 'HUB'

Otro salto se ha dado en la mercancía en transbordo, que hasta julio ha crecido en un 290%. Aunque sigue siendo un tráfico modesto (no alcanza aún las 400.000 toneladas), Toledo destacó que esto demuestra el potencial para hacer de Castellón «un puerto hub en el Mediterráneo», dado que desde aquí se puede llegar a muchos de los muelles de la ribera del Mare Nostrum.

La nota negativa la ponen los graneles líquidos, que caerán a final de año por la parada de mantenimiento que la refinería de BP está a punto de comenzar. Eso sí, Toledo destacó que el impulso que los nuevos propietarios (Masol) desean dar a la planta de biodiésel para convertirla en su «centro de producción y distribución para toda el área mediterránea» y la futura implantación «de una empresa del sector agroalimentario» hace necesaria la construcción de un nuevo atraque de graneles líquidos que prevén sacar a licitación este mes.

157 MILLONES EN OBRAS

Esta es una de las futuras obras que acometerá la Autoridad Portuaria, que hasta el 2021 prevé invertir, de media, «17,5 millones» al año. Con ello crearía «más de 300 puestos de trabajo directos», dijo Toledo. Según las tablas de la patronal de constructoras Seopan serían 315. Si a ellos se suma el acceso ferroviario sur, la inversión sería de 157 millones.

The restructuring of the debt and the increase in profits has meant that the Port Authority of Castellón has gone up from the eighth position of profitablility in the list of Spanish ports which it held in 2014, to the third position which it will reach in 2017, according to the forecast by State Ports at the end of the economic year. What is more the port now holds the second position in terms of the lowest percentage of operating expenses over income, and at the same time is using only 18% of its income for debt servicing which far below the average of 32% in the Ports System.

These good economic results place the port of Castellón in a sound position from which it will be able to undertake projects which will make it even more competitive, investing in infrastructure and reducing the the cost to vessels using the port which will facilitate sustainable growth.

Below are some of the the most important statistics from the first two years  of the presidency of Francisco Toledo at the Port Authority of Castellón and which he presented today together with the managing director, Roberto Arzo. Toledo highlighted the fact that increased profitability was achieved "in spite of the reduction in tariffs carried out in 2017 and which show, somewhat paradoxically, that lowering tariffs produces better results by becoming more competitive and thus increasing traffic."

In addition to solid economic growth, there is the constant growth in goods traffic, an ambitious investment plan that has already been approved, the determination to improve the level of environmental protection and to strengthen the links between the port and the town.

Concerning the increase in goods traffic at the port of Castellón, the president of the Port Authority stated that "it has been considerably above the average in the Spanish Port System", with increases of 5.84% from 3.92% in 2015, and of 3.49% from 1.57% in 2016 and in the first quarter of 2017 8.95% from 3.39%, which gives an accumulated result over these two years which is double that of the average in the port system.

Toledo also wished to emphasise that another factor in the increase in traffic has been that "new shipping lines have started operations which improves the connectivity of the port and the diversification of traffic, such as that recently undertaken by Boluda, and also various shipping companies have substantially increased their use of the port as a way point which suggests that PortCastelló has  considerable potential as a logistics hub in the Mediterranean.

The positive development of goods traffic has consolidated PortCastello's position  in the top ten of Spanish ports, especially with the increase in solid bulks which has allowed the port to go from the eighth position it held in 2015 to fourth position in 2017 in this type of traffic, within the forty six standard ports that make up the Spanish  ports system. Francisco Toledo pointed out that,“The driving force behind this achievement is the import of raw materials for the ceramics industry and for which PortCastelló has provided in the last few months, after making the necessary investments, more than 90,000 m2 in the south basin for importers and other important companies in this sector so that the logistics platform for the ceramics industry has increased in size both in the south and north basins."

Another important aspect are the large investments which will be made both by BP and UBE in 2017 and which will result in an increase in the traffic of bulk liquids , as well as the initiatives undertaken by the new proprietors of the bio-diesel plant  situated in the port - which has the greatest production capacity in Europe and makes it a reference point for the production and distribution of this product in the Mediterranean. "For these reasons, this month a new bulk liquids dock will be tendered so that we will be able to provide the necessary facilities in the future."

Toledo also mentioned that another reason why these developments in traffic have taken place is thanks to the drive and hard work of companies in the province of Castellón and the good work done by the port community and especially "the excellent work done by the personnel of the Port Authority." He added that "in order to achieve sustainability over the next few years it will be necessary to implement the important public and private investments that are planned over the five year period of 2017 to 2021, as well as to continue our efforts to diversify traffic and to increase our capacity to compete en various fields."

Toledo also referred to the increase in investments at PortCastelló which have gone from 3.1 million euros in 2015 to more than 13 million euros forecast for 2017 as well as the 157 million euro, five year investment plan which has been approved by State Ports (Puertos del Estado). This is designed to make the port more competitive, improve land transport connections both by road and rail, complete the urban development in the south basin, including a new dock for bulk liquids, as well as the creation of an intermodal station while strengthening environmental protection.

Environmental protection has been one of the principal objectives during the tiem that Toledo has been president because the aim is to make the port a 'good neighbour and best friend' to the people of the town of El Grau. For this reason over the last few years large new screens have been erected to prevent dust particles from blowing towards the town and the methods of handling solid bulk cargoes has been modified to make them cleaner and investments have been made in energy efficiency.

A lot of work will be done over the next few years in these environmental matters so a new person has been taken on after a civil service selection procedure and who will supported by experts from the Institute of Ceramic Technology and form the Higher Council for Scientific Research. The increasing commitment of the private sector towards environmental protection is another important factor, in particular the investment made by BP of 14 million euros to build a new storage building for coke.

Another significant advance in this field has been the opening of a new provisional access road to the south basin which means that lorries no longer have to pass through built up areas of El Grau and which saves lorries about 1.5 million kilometres per year and has greatly decreased both atmospheric and sound pollution in the town.

Also during the presidency of Francisco Toledo the policy to open the pprt to the town and the people of the province has continued through specific measures such as strengthening the the Department of Communication and Corporate Public Relations, taking part in social networks, holding open days, improving leisure facilities in the 'muelle de costa' area and making a series of awards through the PortCastelló Lighthouse Award scheme. The 'get to know your port' programme has encouraged organised visits to the port and has provided a property to the charitable organisation Stella Maris where they can look after merchant seamen who stop over in Castellón.

On the subject of human resources, it is worth mentioning the increase in spending on training, grants to staff members taking post graduate studies, restarting productivity payments, setting up job pools and the efforts made to make work schedules flexible in order to help employees attend to their social and family obligations.

Toledo also emphasised the increase of human resources in cargo handling. In September 2015 there were 123 stevedores in permanent employment in the SAGEP of Castellón. Over the last two years 45 permanent and 35 part time stevedores have been taken on as a result of the big increase in traffic and the resulting demand for increased cargo handling capacity.

Francisco Toledo also mentioned the series of reforms that has been carried out by PortCastelló Foundation designed to make this department both viable and useful. At the end of 2016 it was possible to restructure the debt and place the Foundation on a sound economic footing and as a result it has been possible to attract groups within the Port Community to participate as patrons, associates or collaborators in the very attractive plan of promotion and marketing of PortCastelló.

As far as the next few years are concerned, Toledo also mentioned the considerable investments planned by the PAC which in particular will finance urban development and the building of storage areas costing 7.7 million euros with 8 such projects currently up for tender, a new dock for bulk liquids valued at 4 million euros which will be put up for tender this month, the rail connection between the north and south basins, valued at 17 million euros, which it is hoped will be out for tender this year,  and lastly the intermodal station valued at 20 million euros  and the new access road to the south basin valued at 12 million euros both of which are due to be up for tender in 2019.

“These investments will require that we spend an average of 17.5 million euros annually. Using SEOPAN's (Association of Construction Companies)  method to calculate the production of employment though the implementation of public works, this should create around 300 permanent jobs per year.

Private investment at the port should also be mentioned as it is continually increasing. Ineco will start the construction of the rail access to the south basin on the 19th of this month which is forecast to take nine months to complete.

The president of the Port Authority finished by stating that the Port of Castellón, "is not an end in itself but rather a means to serve the economy of the province of Castellón and to generate economic growth and with it employment."  He gave the assurance that PortCastelló "looks to the future with optimism because it is full of opportunities which it will be able to take advantage of thanks to its solid economic footing which will allow the port to undertake ambitious projects and the wonderful port community to work  shoulder to shoulder with the productive sectors of the province to become increasingly competitive not only at the port but through the whole length of the logistic chain of which the port is a vital hub.

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