Guatemala to Boost Trade by Making Port Processes Simpler and Swifter

Alliance Project Aims to Digitise Burdensome Paperwork at Main Ports

The Government of Guatemala has launched a new project with the Global Alliance for Trade Facilitation that will simplify, standardise, and digitise documentation and procedures at its major ports, with benefits that can ripple across its economy.

Shipping companies, terminal operators, and captains will spend less time meeting administrative demands when ships arrive, dock at, or leave Guatemalan ports. For the public sector, the switch to automated processes will ease the controls performed by customs, health, agriculture, and immigration authorities and permit more effective coordination.

The time saved by improving authorisation and inspection processes can allow ports to receive more ships and save operators as much as USD 3,000 in operational costs per hour for each vessel.

“Guatemala’s Economic Revitalization Plan has as one of its main axes the promotion of foreign trade, and this initiative will allow us to move towards this objective, facilitating maritime import and export operations,” said Edith Flores, Guatemala’s Vice-Minister of Economy. “In addition, it will strengthen the transparency of operations and have a positive impact on the costs and efficiency of maritime import and export operations, increasing the country’s competitiveness.” 

The Alliance project will support the government in reviewing and overhauling its port processes while also developing an information technology platform to handle documentation for the arrival and departure of ships at the country’s four main ports: Santo Tomas de Castilla, Puerto Quetzal, Puerto Barrios, and Boyas San Jose.

These improvements will greatly streamline processing, which currently requires captains and shipping agents to submit a range of documents in person at the harbourmaster’s office, as well as at customs, immigration, agriculture, and security authorities.

“By simplifying port operations, this project can have a ripple effect across entire supply chains,” said Philippe Isler, Director of the Alliance. “The introduction of industry best practices at the slowest part of the chain can benefit all other links because they have more time and resources for conducting business instead of shuttling between offices and dealing with mountains of paper.”

Delays in port arrivals and departures stemming from incorrect paperwork and miscoordination among several actors can cost ships their place at port berths and lead to late fees and time lost in loading or unloading cargo. Removing this burden could improve Guatemala’s trade competitiveness and boost its participation in the global economy for the benefit of local businesses.

The two-year project ultimately will create a single digital entry point for all the data and documentation the government requires to authorise and process ship movements, and will enable electronic payment to ensure the entire process is swifter and more predictable.