Aruba Stevedoring Company – Barcadera, Aruba

written by BVC March 5, 2024

Aruba Stevedoring Company – ASTEC N.V.

A State-of-the-Art Multi-Cargo Sea Terminal Operator

 

Fueling Economic Development in Aruba through Modernization and Cargo Logistics

Amidst the idyllic Caribbean surroundings, the Aruba Stevedoring Company (ASTEC) stands as a symbol of efficiency and innovation. Founded in 1983, ASTEC has evolved significantly from its beginnings as a cargo handling operation to becoming a fully equipped, state-of-the-art multi-cargo sea terminal operator located strategically in the port of Barcadera, Aruba.

Christopher Lake, Managing Director, and Randall Angela, Terminal Operations Manager, have been instrumental in guiding ASTEC through the various challenges and accomplishments that have marked the company’s journey. Together, they have played a role in shaping ASTEC’s growth and development, ensuring its resilience in the face of industry changes, and driving it towards its current prominence within Aruba’s economy.

Evolution of Cargo Handling

ASTEC’s story is deeply intertwined with the development of Aruba’s ports and the containerization of cargo. In the early days, Aruba’s port operations were a complex collaboration involving various groups, including shipping agents, unionized workers, and equipment providers. Efficiency was challenging, with hundreds of workers required for diverse tasks due to the absence of modern cargo-handling equipment.

To formalize stevedoring (cargo handling) services at Aruba’s ports, ASTEC was founded with a clear mission closely linked to upgrading and modernizing the port facilities in Aruba. This was essential to accommodate the growing trend of containerization in the shipping industry. With ten shareholders, ASTEC was established in 1983 to enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of cargo-handling operations within the region.

Strategic Partnership with Aruba Ports Authority (APA)

ASTEC’s journey didn’t stop at its inception. The Aruba Ports Authority (APA), a government entity responsible for overseeing port operations, recognized the need to separate cruise activities from cargo handling activities in the bustling port of Oranjestad. This decision aligned with the broader vision of the government of Aruba to optimize the utilization of its port facilities for both cruise tourism and cargo logistics.

In pursuit of this vision, APA launched an ambitious international tender process in 2011. The goal was to select a partner capable of designing, building, financing, operating, and maintaining a state-of-the-art multi-cargo sea terminal in Barcadera. This endeavor was more than just a logistical upgrade; it was a significant step toward realizing a more efficient and specialized approach to port operations.

 

 

From Stevedoring to Multi-Cargo Operator

Under a long-term concession agreement, ASTEC emerged as the successful bidder of this tender. This marked a turning point in ASTEC’s history, transforming it from a stevedoring company in Oranjestad to a fully equipped and modernized multi-cargo sea terminal operator in Barcadera. The new terminal, operational since February 2016, exemplified the commitment of ASTEC and APA to meet the evolving demands of the shipping industry and support the economic growth of Aruba.

Today, ASTEC efficiently manages all facets of cargo handling, encompassing employee management and port security, all within a unified framework. Their commitment to digitizing processes ensures the seamless tracking of the cargo movement in real-time and the timely issuance of customer invoices. As they celebrate their 40th anniversary, ASTEC remains well-prepared to handle a diverse range of incoming cargo, including containers, vehicles, gas vessels, and oversized equipment. Their contributions continue to play a vital role in sustaining Aruba’s thriving economy.

“Forty-plus years ago, we were talking about 400 people, and right now, the company operates a much larger facility with approximately  80 persons, including security personnel”, states Angela. This reduction in manpower, not just at ASTEC but globally, is due to technological advancements that have significantly improved operations and safety in the cargo handling industry.

Driving Aruba’s Economic Growth

Tourism is undoubtedly a major driver of ASTEC’s business, contributing significantly not only to the company’s operations but also to the overall prosperity of the island. However, the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic shed light on the extent of this interdependence. “In the years that COVID affected our island, we saw that around 40% of cargo got knocked out when no flights could have landed in Aruba, and being such a small island in the Caribbean, that is a very substantial amount, says Lake. This reduction represented a substantial loss for a small Caribbean Island like Aruba, highlighting tourism’s critical role in the local economy and the volume of cargo handled annually.

Tourism is very much up and growing in Aruba, especially since 2023. Lake states, “Aruba’s economy grew by 10.3% due to tourism receipts, surpassing the highest trend in 2019 back pre-COVID”. This surge in tourism automatically translates into an increased demand for cargo, which plays a vital role in supplying hotels, restaurants, and various businesses catering to the tourism sector.

Another significant trend pertains to the regular visits by shipping lines to Aruba, often involving three to four substantial vessels per week. These operations remain unaffected by any direct factors, signifying stability within the shipping industry. This stability, in turn, bolsters ASTEC’s ongoing expansion and operational efficiency.

Technology’s Role

In addition to loose cargo, the handling of lumber has also evolved. Historically, shiploads of lumber were common, but today, they are consolidated onto container platforms and flat racks. These changes have not only improved efficiency but have also reduced the need for a large workforce. ASTEC’s operations, which once required hundreds of workers, now efficiently run with fewer than 80 employees, including security personnel.

Technology and innovation have been key in developing the cargo handling industry. Angela emphasizes that while the industry is not fully automated, safety considerations have driven technology adoption. Advanced equipment and technology help mitigate the risk associated with manual labor-intensive tasks.

ASTEC has been at the forefront of embracing modern technologies in its operations. Their up-to-date, well-maintained equipment fleet creates a safer and more efficient work environment. Additionally, the company has also prioritized environmental sustainability. They have invested in solar power generation panels and modern electrical currents to reduce the carbon footprint, aligning with Aruba’s broader commitment to sustainable and greener energy practices.

In 2016, ASTEC introduced a cutting-edge terminal operating system to optimize operational efficiency further. This system enables real-time tracking of each container’s location, from its unloading off the ship to its precise placement within the stacking area. This implementation has reduced the previously lengthy search and waiting times experienced at the Orion Startport. Clients now see quicker container access, with turnaround times improving by as much as 50%.

 

 

Adapting and Thriving

ASTEC’s dedication to staying at the forefront of industry advancements is evident through its modernization efforts, including adopting palletization techniques. These innovations enhance efficiency and prioritize safety and compliance with industry standards. As a result, ASTEC contributes significantly to Aruba’s ongoing economic growth.

With a strong focus on efficiency and competitiveness, ASTEC has consistently adhered to stringent international security standards, prominently the International Ship and Port Facility Security (ISPS) guidelines. This commitment has significantly contributed to Aruba’s emergence as a dependable and secure port of call for cargo vessels.

The ISPS guidelines, established by the International Maritime Organization (IMO), provide a comprehensive framework for bolstering security in the maritime domain. ASTEC’s dedication to upholding these standards helps foster a safe and reliable maritime environment in Aruba, safeguarding the confidence of cargo ships in the port’s capabilities.

A Future of Exploration

ASTEC’s impact on Aruba’s economy remains a driving force behind the island’s prosperity. The company’s capacity to adapt and optimize its operations, even during demanding times like the COVID-19 pandemic, demonstrates its resilience and commitment to bolstering the local economy.

As ASTEC explores new opportunities and expands its services, it not only enhances its own growth but also contributes to the broader economic landscape of Aruba. By actively seeking ventures in the offshore business transshipment sector, ASTEC aims to diversify its revenue streams and attract potential industries to the region. This forward-thinking approach not only benefits the company but also has the potential to stimulate economic development and job creation in Aruba.

AT A GLANCE

Aruba Stevedoring Company – ASTEC N.V.

What: ASTEC’s journey from cargo handler to modern sea terminal operator in Aruba, driving economic growth, technology, and sustainability

Where: Barcadera, Aruba

Website: https://www.astecaruba.com/main/

PREFERRED VENDORS

PACECO MOMENTUM & PACECO POSEIDON – https://paceco-momentum.com/ | https://paceco-poseidon.com/

PACECO has been uninterruptedly present in the container handling industry for the past 60 years when designing the first container quay crane (STS Portainer®). It has, since then, evolved hand in hand with container terminals and contributed to the improvement of port operations thanks to the STS Portainer® and RTG/RMG Transtainer® cranes while providing Advanced Port Solutions for the need of terminals to adapt to the spectacular increase in size and capacity of container ships over the last decades.

Safecom Security N.V. – www.safecomaruba.com

Aruba Ports Authority N.V. – www.arubaports.com

February 2024 Business View Caribbean Magazine cover
February 2024

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