In progress

Cutting red tape at ports

Digitalising documentation procedures to enhance efficiency


The Challenge

Arrival and departure processing at Guatemala’s main ports require shipping agents and ships’ captains to make multiple in-person visits to comply with paper-based formalities, slowing port operations and clearance times, and stalling shipments because of inadequate interagency coordination. This increases the time and cost of doing business.

Trade efficiency relies on tight scheduling – port delays can result in ships losing their berthing windows at other ports in transit.  This, in turn, can trigger late fees, leave cranes and ships idle, and lead to additional fuel consumption, driving up costs that are often passed on to consumers.

What we are doing

The Alliance is partnering with the public and private sectors in Guatemala to automate the documentation procedures involved in arrivals and departures at the country’s four main cargo ports, creating greater uniformity and efficiency in line with international standards.

In mid-2023, key public and private sector stakeholders completed formal training ahead of the introduction of the country’s Maritime Single Window (VUMAR), a new system that will transform the authorisation procedures for vessels arriving and departing these ports.

VUMAR is expected to go live in early 2024, with immediate benefits for shipping agents, terminal operators and at least five government agencies.

Relevant individuals participated in seven induction sessions delivered by local IT services company APPSystems, covering the new workflows and validation requirements that will also allow Guatemala to comply with its commitments under the International Maritime Organization Convention on Facilitation of International Maritime Traffic.

This approach is being introduced at the four main ports in Guatemala –  Santo Tomas de Castilla, Puerto Quetzal, Puerto Barrios, and Boyas San Jose.

The the main public sector participants are the  Superintendency of Tax Administration, the Guatemalan Institute of Migration, the Ministry of Agriculture, Food, and Livestock, the Ministry of Public Health and Social Assistance, and the General Directorate of Harbormasters. The private sector is also heavily involved, including port operators such as APM Terminals Quetzal and ASONAV, a shipping agents’ association representing 26 companies that handle 90% of all ships docking in Guatemala.

APM Terminals and ASONAV are providing expertise, knowledge, and best practices to ensure the project benefits a range of operators, from global transport companies to a number of micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs), many of whom serve as intermediaries.


By reengineering business processes and introducing automated systems to manage port arrivals and departures, this project can facilitate trade, reduce costs, and ultimately improve Guatemala’s trade competitiveness, boosting the sector’s contribution to the overall economy.

Streamlined and digitalised port processes will:

  • reduce the time and costs required to secure necessary authorisations for ships’ arrivals and departures
  • boost efficiency by cutting the amount of idle time at berth
  • enhance control and monitoring of vessel movements by registering all arrival and departures in the electronic platform

Greater efficiency could lead to processing of an additional two vessels a month in every port, with projected savings in operating costs of up to US $ 3,000 an hour per ship.

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