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The vital links to international trade and future development

Interview - February 20, 2012
Eugene H. Profijt, CEO of Traymore Suriname, discusses the importance of the country’s ports – particularly the Port of Moengo – both for maintaining current business and as drivers for economic growth

What is your opinion regarding the state of the economy in Suriname?

I think that the country and the government are aware that we have a lot of potential in terms of natural resources, which we can use to develop other sectors that are not moving so fast. We have to understand that some of the natural resources are going to be finished in the end, but one thing that will never be finished in Suriname is food; the world needs food. With the right decision in investment in agriculture, we can stabilize the country for many years, for our children and for the children of our children.

Traymore is an investor in the trade and shipping sector in Suriname. In 2004, Traymore bought the dock of Moengo and rehabilitated it in order to facilitate current and future activities to boost the economy. What has been the evolution of Traymore and the Port of Moengo?

Traymore is a harbor, and the harbor was built and owned by Suralco, Alcoa. Alcoa is an American company that has been here for 90 years already. Imagine that: 90 years. We bought the harbor, and the main reason why we did that is because we had the vision and the view that a lot of developments were going to come, like Newmont, Surgold… There is a lot of wood that is transported by road, the granite with Grassalco, which is exporting already. What we did in Moengo is to give the economy a boost, a jumpstart. We have also the possibility to use that harbor as a transfer harbor, as a connection. I think it is well known that the French have a problem with their harbor because of their depth, and we can help them by sending their ships to our harbor. There is a main construction going on now, the road from Meerzorg to Albina. It’s a construction project of 125 million Euros, but if we’re going to move the containers month in month out, after a while, the road that we spent so much money on is going to be damaged. I always say Traymore can help by putting our harbor in use for people. Also for the people that will work with the containers there, we can provide the locals there with a job; unemployment in Moengo is very high.  Therefore, we try to do our best to boost up Moengo.

In order to foster and deliver highest and effective range of harbor warehousing and cargo handling services Traymore has several facilities and services in the rehabilitated port. What would you highlight about the Moengo Port?

We have the biggest privately-owned oil tank farm, 50,000 barrels. We’re an ISPS certified harbor (small, but certified), and we have invested in heavy equipment. Moengo Mineral is building a factory now, and the equipment that they are purchasing is being unloaded at our harbor.

Our main business at the harbor now is fuel, getting fuel and selling it back. I hope that before the end of this year, we can get our first container shipped. That is our plan, but our main thing now is diesel oil.

You mentioned you’re ISPS certified, and we know you’re also member of the CSA. What would you highlight about Traymore’s policy of quality?

If you want to be an international port, you have to establish rules that you have to apply and comply with. What we’re doing costs a lot of money and training for the workforce, but if we want to be taken seriously, especially at an international level, we have to fulfill all the compliance, and we have to get our people trained. Even I sometimes get training. I went to Barbados with two people recently. But this is an investment that you have to do if you have a harbor.

The Cottica River is the deepest river in Suriname, we know that you have two tank farms that represent a capacity of about 8 million liters; you also have trucking facilities. Bearing this in mind, what can be the contribution of Traymore to the economic development in Suriname?

There are a lot of things that we can talk about, and a lot of things are confidential.... What I can say is that the demand for diesel is going to grow enormously if Newmont starts, and I don’t think that it’s going to be possible for anybody to bring all that oil in a truck to Patamacca; they’ll need to put all that oil somewhere. Even if you don’t like the manager of Traymore, they’ll have to talk to me, and we’re willing to help. We don’t take advantage pumping the prices; we want to help to keep the development going on in the fastest way. It has to be a win-win situation for both parties, for the company and for Traymore. The demand for oil is going to grow enormously. These people will need a lot of oil.

I don’t know it the people realize what Newmont is. Newmont is one of the three biggest mining companies in the world; they’re even bigger than IAMGOLD. Small-scale mining will need oil as well.

Traymore is also the owner of a 21 hectares compound located in the eastern part of Suriname, which could be leased for potential clients. What are the possibilities regarding this compound?

We’ve made a master plan for Traymore, and we don’t want to do everything. For instance, Global Expedition is the port operator of the harbor. Let’s suppose you come with a company and want to export lumber. We don’t export lumber, so we’d offer you a stay, you’d be able to rent it for a year, six months or two years. We do that in order to help also that entrepreneurs come to Moengo and develop their businesses; we can help them by that.

You’re also the President of the AMCHAM in Suriname. We know that both countries engage in mutually beneficial relations, and that the U.S. is a very important trade partner for Suriname. What is your evaluation on the state of the Suriname-U.S. relations and the role of the U.S. in Suriname’s economy?

Most people in Suriname know especially about two countries: the Netherlands and the United States. What I can see now is that the relationship with the U.S. is deepening. There are also cultural and educational ties, and that is a good thing because we can learn a lot from the U.S., and the U.S. can learn a lot from Suriname, as well. Look at our diversity, so many cultures living together. Alcoa is already 90 years here, they know Suriname, they know the culture, and they know the people. We have so many cultures living together in harmony; we have a mosque next to a synagogue, that’s something I don’t think they will find in any other part of the world.

Talking in economical terms, when I was at the last CSA Meeting, Miami is playing a huge role. I was shocked by the figures. One of the countries that had a strong trade relationship was Suriname because of its imports. We also have a lot of products that we can export to the U.S. So, what I personally see is that the relationship is deepening, that we understand each other better, and talk to each other with respect. I think that if we get this relationship closer, there’s going to be a benefit for both countries, more for Suriname, but it’s going to be a win-win situation.

How would you evaluate the potential of Suriname to receive foreign direct investment?

If we talk about FDI, and I think that the Government here with Mr. Lackin and Mr. Ameerali is pushing this issue, but there are too many rules for foreign direct investors. Investors have to talk with a lot of people, and the government wants to institute a “one window” policy, make it easier to invest in Suriname. There are a lot of opportunities for foreign investors, but when investors come they have to have it easier and know who they have to talk to. There are things that we as a local company already know. I think that the investors should come to Suriname and invest big in long-term investments, investments with a ROI over five years. There are a lot of things that they can do. There are a lot of possibilities for foreign companies to invest, a lot of projects. Talking about Traymore, for example, there is a foreign company that recently bought the controlling stakes of the CosZawya Port in Suriname, and we’re open to that. There’s also the possibility that we work together with foreign companies. That’s what I’m saying: that there are a lot of opportunities for foreign companies because they bring capital, but also technology and international experience. We have to be open to that.

Traymore could be interesting for our audience to invest in, but the port could also stimulate further investments in the country. How would you evaluate the contribution of the port to attract FDI?

The Port of Moengo is sitting here, and I don’t think we can imagine the development of any place here without a port. If there’s no port, you cannot develop the place in a feasible way. Everybody is talking now about cutting costs, and the best way to do that is transporting by ocean. We’re there to support all the investments that can help to boost the economic development of Moengo, in the sense that you cannot bring a whole factory on a truck. From the city Paramaribo to there, its 90 km on a road that they are investing 125 million euros; but after one or two years the money will be thrown away, the road will be damaged. They should do it by boat, and that’s a thing that people have to realize. I’m sorry to say this, but I think the people here don’t realize the importance of the harbor from Traymore enough. Everybody is concentrating on the Port of Paramaribo. The U.S. is big, but there’s more than one port, there are many ports, some are small, some are big, some are international. We have to understand that if we want to develop Moengo, we’ll have to use a port. The port is already there, and we don’t have to build it. It’s ready to be used.

Bearing in mind the media impact of our communications, all our interviewees are acting as ambassadors for Suriname’s image at an international level. As a Surinamese, what would be your final message to the international community?

I’d say that, if they look at the world, we have here a stable and safe environment with warm people. They can’t go wrong with investing in Suriname. We have very qualified people that have international experience to do business. I think that we welcome all investors, and I can tell them that they will get the warmest sympathy from the Surinamese.

In your position, as CEO of Traymore Suriname, what would be your final message about Traymore to potential partners?

I would tell the investors that are willing to do business with Traymore that if they have respect for the partner, we’re going to have a win-win situation for both parties. We can grow both businesses together. We’re realistic, if somebody is going to invest here, he will want to have most of the shares; but if the respect is there, we will have a good common ground to do business for the future.