Belgian company to spend $455m to create “South America’s most modern port”

Belgian logistics firm Katoen Natie had signed a deal with the government of Uruguay to invest $455m in turning the Port of Montevideo into a regional trade hub.

In return for a 50-year extension of its concession on the Terminal Cuenca del Plata (TCP), Katoen Natie will build a 22ha container yard, 700m quay wall and dredge the port’s shipping channel to a depth of 14m.

According to Gerolf Annemans, the head of Katoen Natie’s operations in Uruguay, the expansion will increase TCP’s capacity from 1.2 to 2.5 million containers a year, and will create "the most modern container terminal in South America" with 12-to-15 state-of-the-art gantry cranes and 50 straddle carriers.

He told Belgian newspaper De Tijd: "We have an agreement with the Uruguayan government, which owns 20% of TCP, to invest an additional $455 million in the terminal … We will be able to simultaneously unload and load four container ships."

Katoen Natie was formed in 1854 to run the port of Antwerp. It now operates more than 500ha of warehouse capacity in 36 countries, including more than 300 logistics platforms.

It opened its Montevideo operation in 2009 after investing $250m in the terminal.

However, the relationship between the Belgian company and the Uruguayan authorities has not always been plain sailing. After it built TCP, the Uruguayan authorities opened a rival port, triggering Katoen Natie to launch a legal action for $1.5bn in damages for violation of the concession agreement.

Work on the Montevideo extension is set to begin immediately, the report said.

Image: The port of Montevideo (Jimmy Baikovicius/CC BY-SA 2.0) 

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