San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Technology Streamlines Shipping Requirements

A growing number of online services and digitizing Customs has recently streamlined shipping procedures in Nicaragua, according to Richard Downing, the general manager for Seaboard Marine.

“The Internet has progressed, there’s more information available, and everything is electronic,” Downing said.

Customs in the region are becoming more digitized, which means fewer delays for shippers, and thus, less costs.

“Before, they were doing more manual work. Now, when containers get to the port we can have them dispatched within 24 hours,” Downing said.

The Miami-based Seaboard is one of a slew of companies in Nicaragua that offers shipping service to meet Nicaragua’s growing trade demands.

Most shipping companies quote prices prior to shipping, based on commodity, origin and destination, size of shipment and risk involved, according to Downing. And many will help customers take care of Customs fees and permits for goods.

Those looking to export or import can find shipping services that range from port-to-port delivery to door-to-door service.

The shipping-service sector is catering to an industry that has experienced a boost from new trade agreements that have increased exports in non-traditional products, among others (NT, July 13).

Downing, whose company ships throughout the Western Hemisphere, says he has seen “a substantial increase in agricultural products going to the United States” since Nicaragua passed the Central American Free-Trade Agreement with the United States (CAFTA).

His company, originally called Servimar, was bought out by the Miami-based shipping giant in 2005. Last year, Seaboard invested in a 500-square-meter office building in Managua. Seaboard also recently introduced an “e-Servicenter” that allows clients to track products, make real-time sailing scheduling, online bookings and customizable reports.

The largest cargo carrier to and from the Port of Miami, Seaboard ships between the United States, the Caribbean and Latin America, serving nearly 40 ports in more than 20 countries. The company has fixedday shipments. For instance, it ships from Nicaragua to the Port of Miami three times a week:Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday.

Keeping Costs Down

But obstacles remain for the shipping industry here.

Companies that use large vessels, as does Seaboard, are obligated to use Honduran and Costa Rican ports and then ship goods by land to Nicaragua because of the country’s lack of port capacity (see separate story).

Downing said Nicaragua’s Caribbean ports are too small for the company’s vessels, though the government has been discussing the possibility of building a larger port at Puerto Cabezas.

Seaboard currently ships by sea to the CortésPort in Honduras and LimónPort in Costa Rica, and then transports goods over land to their final destination in Nicaragua.

Nicaragua’s forthcoming Law of Ports, which would regulate private investment in port infrastructure, is considered a key tool for the future expansion and modernization of Nicaragua’s ports – something the country with the least-developed port infrastructure in Central America desperately needs to compete more effectively in global trade (NT, Aug. 31).

And with skyrocketing fuel prices, the shipping industry is being squeezed to keep costs down for the companies as well as for clients.

One way to do that, Downing said, is by avoiding hidden costs like fines.

“One of the problems we’ve encountered is overweight,” he said, adding that the biggest fines most people face is when they try to ship more than the 42,000-pound quota per shipment.

Overweight fines here are 300 córdobas ($17) on the first instance.

But he said Nicaragua’s Ministry of Transportation is considering making more stringent fines of up to $20 per kilometer shipped for every ton of weight.

For more information on the company, visit, or call 233-7290.


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