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Curaçao Ports Authority: Modern Port Development

Curaçao is a hotspot for both international trade and tourism business operations, with both vessels and cruise lines alike porting in the Southern Caribbean Island to make the most of the stunning landscapes and access to the Southern American market. The autonomous country is part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, whilst geographically sitting just 35 miles northwest of Venezuela’s coast. As such a major contributor to Curaçao’s economy, the ports across the Island are overseen by the Curaçao Ports Authority (CPA) which has spent over 40 years developing the harbours and ports of Curaçao into a modern and thriving centre for maritime and logistical excellence.  

CPA is responsible for developing and managing all ports across Curaçao, by ensuring that every port is operated with the highest quality of maritime and logistics services, whilst focusing on safety, security, and the environmentally conscious handling of everyday port operations. As a landlord to the ports of Curaçao, CPA is working to be the port of choice across the Caribbean region through vital developments towards modern infrastructure. CPA was established in 1981 to oversee the ports of Curaçao, which today are among the region’s most developed and best-organized ports. This is largely due to the Authority’s operations which have spearheaded the economic development of the ports through networking to bring greater investment and partner opportunities for the port.  

With such a vast array of ports dealing with cargo, oil distribution, tourism and even mining across the island, CPA works to oversee and continually develop these ports for the benefit of Curaçao’s maritime industry. By establishing Curaçao as a key hub for maritime needs, CPA can then continue to bring economic activity to the ports which then feed directly back into the economy of Curaçao. To achieve this level of excellence, CPA is focused on maintaining strict coordination and regulation of all port operations in Curaçao, whilst providing competitive port services including tugboat services, pilotage, vessel traffic controls, bridges and ferry operations, training and knowledge management to clients and the port community. These services ensure that all vessels arriving in Curaçao receive the same high-quality service to help establish Curaçao’s port’s reputation as a hub for maritime operations.  

For Curaçao, the tourism industry is key as tourists travel from all across the world to see the clear blue waters that surround the island. Therefore, the tourism industry is a vital aspect of CPA’s operations. To ensure that Curaçao remains a firm stopping point for tourism to benefit the local economy, CPA announced in December last year a collaboration with the Royal Caribbean Group (RCG) which will see CPA continue to commit itself to strengthening its relationship with key cruise liners. This collaboration will work alongside other key players in the tourism industry such as the Curaçao Tourist Board (CTB) and SEL Maduro. The collaboration is hoped to further develop and promote the cruise sector for the benefit of the economy of Curaçao, and in turn, develop RCG’s operations in the Latin American cruise market.  

A large portion of CPA’s operations centre around the Port of Willemstad which is the main and largest port in the capital of Curaçao. The port offers a wide range of facilities serving all types of vessels across the maritime industry with cargo facilities available at its container terminal. The container terminal operates three gantry cranes with a 50-ton capacity. In addition to this, cargo is often moved through the Port’s Ro/Ro and Lo/Lo facilities. At the Port of Willemstad, cruise ships and other vessels dock at the Megapier Cruise Terminal which unlike the main cargo terminal is located outside of the bay and is not subject to the same size restrictions as bays such as St. Anna which only has a 15-metre draft.  

The main facilities at the Port of Willemstad are located in the Schottegat area. These facilities include the region’s largest oil refiners and dry dock facilities, as well as the container terminal and cargo wharves. The vital location of these facilities directly in the harbour ensures that porting vessels can access the wide array of facilities with ease. In addition, the Port provides both covered and open storage facilities which allows for the loading and unloading of ships directly onto the wharves. The existing infrastructure of the port in the capital of Curaçao has established it as a vital stopping point for vessels along both shipping lines and cruise itineraries.   

Other ports under CPA include Bullen Bay which facilitates logistics operations to some of the largest vessels travelling to Curaçao. The bay was built by the Royal Dutch Shell and is now partly leased and operated by the Venezuelan oil company PDVSA. The port operates as a storage and supply facility for the Emmastad Refiner Transhipment of crude and products which are carried out from the bay. The Oil Refining Terminal plays a key role in the economic transhipment of 1,200,00 bpd (barrels per day) of crude oil which is distributed across the Eastern Hemisphere. The port’s operations and natural location mean that large vessels carrying the oil can port in Curaçao and offload oil. This can then be taken by smaller ships from Curaçao to smaller draft-restricted ports across the US. Therefore, CPA’s operations at Bullen Bay allow Curaçao to continue to play a vital role in international oil supply chains, again bringing further economic development to the region.  

As the crude oil network began to expand for Curaçao, the oil terminal was moved to Bullen Bay from Caracas Bay in 1996. Now Caracas Bay, along with St. Michiel’s Bay are utilised more often for carrying out repairs and deep-water cleaning thanks to the clear waters at each port. Therefore, these two ports are vital for allowing large ships which may not be able to port at other small ports due to draft restrictions, to make essential repairs to keep shipping lines and therefore supply chains running smoothly. The final key port under CPA is Fuik Bay which is privately owned by the Mining Company of Curaçao and focuses on the shipment of phosphate rock.   

Overall, CPA has spent over 40 years developing Curaçao’s port and maritime industry into a vital hub for a wide variety of operations from cargo to tourism, that is continually working to bring economic development to the region. With vital partnerships and collaborations with key players across the maritime sector on both local and international scales, CPA is setting up Curaçao’s ports as a vital area for continued development towards the future.