In progress

Cutting red tape at ports

Digitalising documentation procedures to enhance efficiency


Revisions and digitalisation of outdated trade processes at Guatemala’s four main ports are delivering new efficiencies, with benefits that can ripple across its economy.

Port arrival and departure processes traditionally have required shipping agents and ships’ captains to make multiple in-person visits to satisfy a range of paper-based formalities, slowing inspection and clearance times, and stalling shipments because of inadequate interagency coordination.

Trade depends on tight schedules and port delays can result in ships losing their berthing windows at other ports in their route. This, in turn, can trigger late fees, leave port cranes and ships idle, and lead to additional fuel consumption, driving up costs that ultimately are passed on to consumers.

What we are doing

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.

The project is producing greater uniformity across government agencies in terms of the type of documents required to satisfy port operations, while also designing and implementing a new information technology (IT) platform to serve as a central and digitalised entry point for documentation. This approach is being introduced at the four main ports in Guatemala, namely Santo Tomas de Castilla, Puerto Quetzal, Puerto Barrios, and Boyas San Jose.

The project works with 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. From the private sector, we are collaborating with port operators like APM Terminals Quetzal and ASONAV, a shipping agents’ association that represents 26 companies handling 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 small and medium-sized enterprises that serve as intermediaries, through to global transport companies.


Streamlined and digitalised port processes will:

  • reduce the time and costs required to secure the 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 per port and cut as much as USD 3,000 an hour off operating costs per ship. Savings like these can make a significant difference not only to shipping firms but to the small and medium-sized businesses working along the supply chain.


We will focus on determining the time and cost savings yielded through the project, relying on baseline and endline assessments and quarterly progress reports. The project will perform midterm assessments where feasible.


Initial work targeting business process improvements based on international best practices was completed in June 2022. The second component, introducing the maritime IT platform, is running simultaneously and concludes in July 2023.

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