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Port reforms in Latin America and the Caribbean: where we stand, how we got here, and what is left

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Maritime Economics & Logistics Aims and scope


During the 1960s and 1970s, the port infrastructure in Latin America and the Caribbean was badly maintained and often poorly managed. 1980s onward, technology advances like cargo containerization pushed the maritime transport industry into a fundamental restructuring of its service networks (Guasch et al., Structure, financing and risk management in large port infrastructure concessions: the Chilean case. ITF Round Tables, 103–128, 2015). Most countries in the region carried out port reforms in 1990s and 2000s. This paper reviews the port reforms implemented in the region (specifically Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Chile, Ecuador, Jamaica, Mexico, Panama, Peru, Uruguay, and Venezuela) over the last three decades. However mostly successful, these reforms have not been fully implemented, and were mainly focused on decentralization of governance and liberalization of the market. There are pending actions that could improve the operation and development of state-owned ports through private sector participation under a proper framework. Countries such as Argentina, Chile, Ecuador, Mexico, and Peru have ports still not concessioned to private operators and are still administered through tool or service models. Hence, there are still some steps to take regarding what was promised in the last reforms. So far only Brazil, Chile, and Mexico positively progress towards a second stage of port reforms. The present paper also shows a high degree of concentration in the public port sector of certain countries. This paper identifies areas to improve when it comes to port governance in the region.

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The authors would like to thank the Editor-in-Chief and two anonymous referees for their suggestions and constructive comments on a previous version of this paper.

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Correspondence to Ancor Suárez-Alemán.

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Suárez-Alemán, A., Serebrisky, T. & Ponce de León, O. Port reforms in Latin America and the Caribbean: where we stand, how we got here, and what is left. Marit Econ Logist 20, 495–513 (2018).

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