Bolivia's Shipping Hopes Hit Snag

Friday, May 12, 2000
Landlocked Bolivia's attempts to access international shipping business has hit a snag with the suspension of its ship registry office in Greece, representatives of the South American nation's maritime department said.

The country, which has been seeking direct access to the sea for the last 120 years since being defeated by Chile, has established an international shipping register through an outpost in the Port of Piraeus over the last 12 months.

However, the attempt to secure foreign revenues by registering ships through Greek registrar Pellis Papadopoulos has been suspended, advisor to the Bolivian Ships Registry Hugo Torrijos said.

Torrijos, who is a former head of Panama's shipping register and ports authority, said about 150 ships registered in Piraeus would be re-audited to ensure they adhered to all international safety and technical standards. "Nobody will be allowed to register without permission being given from headquarters in La Paz," he said.

Flag of convenience shipping registers have come under increasing criticism over recent years for allowing lax safety conditions and poor living conditions on board ships they register.

Shipowners benefit from lower costs and not having to pay business taxes.

Torrijos, who has also acted as an advisor to the Belize register, said Bolivia's maritime plans were part of the country's attempts to create physical links with the outside world. Bolivia has, with Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay, developed 3,000 km of river and canal links - known as the Hydroway - through to the Atlantic on Uruguay's coast. Barge trains of 20 units of 2,0000 tons each are capable of navigating the Hydroway opening up Bolivia's huge iron ore resources to international markets as well as an estimated eight million tons a year of Brazilian soybean, which is not exported.

About 50 barges from neighboring South American countries have been registered with Bolivia to allow them to use the Hydroway. Delicate negotiations with Chile, whose ports are the nearest to Bolivia, are also likely to take place under new governments in both countries. They do not currently have diplomatic relations. - (Reuters)

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