Marine Strategy Feature: Interview With Juan A. Ureta

By Paul Gonzalez-Morgan

Juan A. Ureta is President of Propeller Club Algeciras, consisting of executives and active businessmen professionally linked to different industrial sectors and international trade, especially in the fields of logistics, transport and the maritime-port sector.

Ureta is also a professional in the logistics sector as Co-Inventor and Co-Founder of Connectainer & Intermodal Solutions, a company dedicated to the optimisation of empty container use. After 40 years in the Merchant Marine and extensive knowledge on logistics and especially the maritime container, we are pleased to learn more about the association Juan Ureta has chaired since 2013, Propeller Club Algeciras.

Propeller Club was founded in 2012. Please tell us about the association's journey to the present day:

Actually although the Propeller Club is founded in October 2012, the process starts two years before, when we are invited to participate in the I Meeting Of Clubs in Valencia (2010) and later to the one held in Barcelona the following year, it was from this year when we finally got the project going. It was presented 15th May 2013 at the Reina Cristina Hotel (Algeciras), with the presence of all the other clubs in Spain, and with the attendance of the civil authorities of Algeciras.

The lunches begin with the former Director General of the Port of Algeciras, José Luis Estrada Llaquet, in the month of April of that year taking place every month thereon, except in the summer months. Over these years we have made sure that the speakers were people of a certain prestige and that in a way they could transfer their knowledge to the partners, trying to see things from a different perspective. We can say that, although participants are from different backgrounds, business, political, etc., there has always been a common focus in developing logistics, maritime and port activities.

I will not give a comprehensive list of the guests, but as a summary, among others we can mention, in addition to our first speaker José Luis Estrada Llaquet, the following:

- J. Ignacio Landaluce, Mayor of Algeciras

- Antonio Padrón y Santiago, IMO Maritime Ambassador

- Óscar Bazán, Executive Vice President, Panama Canal

- Fernando González Laxe, President Spanish Ports (PE)

- Enric Tico, President FETEIA

- Joan Amorós, President FERRMED

- Manuel Morón, President Algeciras Port Authority (APBA)

- Antolín García, Coordinadora

- Jordi Aragunde, IDC Workers

- Javier Sánchez, President Confederation Businessmen of Cádiz (CEC)

- Salvador de la Encina, President Spanish Ports (PE)

- Manuel Jiménez Barrios, Vice President Regional Government Andalusia

- Fabian Picardo, Chief Minister Gibraltar

In addition to other leading private business leaders, Javier Lancha (APMT Algeciras), Alonso Luque (TTI Algeciras), Iñaqui Larequi (UASAC Spain), Joaquín Vidal (BEST Terminal), etc., naming everyone would be endless, given that we normally have between 8-9 lunches every year.

We have also been organising an event where the logistics community of the region have an opportunity to get together, the Logistics Gastro Party. This has been arranged now for two years and it has been a great success. We managed to gather 483 people in the one held last June, and we hope to reach 1000 people by 2020, which will be held on Friday, 12th June.

What is the main purpose of Propeller Club Algeciras?

The main mission of the Club, according to its statutes, is to promote the maritime and port commerce of the region, objectives that were already defined in the founding letter of the Club in the United States in 1927: promote and strengthen the Merchant Marine and the development of maritime commerce.

Today in the 21st century we continue with these same objectives, although adapted to the current situation, but basically they are the same and can be summarised in three main points: training, synergies and dissemination of knowledge. At a local level we have opted for training, and we are in the process of signing an agreement with the University of Cádiz (UCA) for this, with an economic provision aligned with our capabilities. It is not our intention to compete against existing associations for the promotion of the activity, nor we want to be a gastronomic society, our goal has been to create a discussion forum with a relevant guest, and why not, to become a new lobby in the region.

How many members are registered and what criteria should they follow to join the Club?

There are currently 49 members with the latest additions, a figure that we expect to increase year-on-year.

In these six years of activity, we have experienced slow constant growth, and we have practically not had any withdrawals, except for those due to the transfer of residence. Regarding the requirements to join the Club, one can become a member in two ways: express invitation from the Board of Directors and the other by proposal of two Club members. It is important to emphasise that the status of member is personal and unrelated to the company in which one works; this condition is the norm in all the clubs in the world.

What is the main challenge of the logistics sector in the next 12 months?

We believe that the main challenge is the rail connection to Algeciras. We do not understand the investment policy in this area by the Administration, something we promoted at the time when we attended the VIII Clubs Meeting, which was held in Algeciras, April 2017, a manifesto of support for the rail connection of Algeciras with France, in its two fronts, central and Mediterranean connections, and which was signed by all the Propeller Clubs of Spain.

And opportunities?

An important point, at least in my opinion, is the design of a port today for the next 30 years. Maybe it is time for us to consider whether the design we have followed, which may have been the best at the time, is now the right one. The location of the Border Inspection Post (PIF), of the Maritime Station, of CLH and Vopak, in principle and according to a more rational criterion, does not seem to indicate that they are the most suitable, solutions should be sought if possible.

What initiatives have been developed in the last year that have produced positive results?

I think the initiative of the Logistics Gastro Party will definitely mark a before and after. Barcelona and Valencia have been organising it for years, the former more than 8 and Valencia more than 30, so they are many years head of us, however we are now there and I think as a senior manager of a terminal in Valencia told me and will attending our next event in Algeciras: “I sincerely believe that it is a good opportunity to network and share our day-to-day with the logistics community. It is something that we have started in Valencia and therefore nobody better than us to know the scope of it”.

What new projects is the Club developing?

In addition to completing the collaboration project with the UCA, which we may also expand in view of the result, another of the projects we would like to complete is the creation of a maritime newspaper, just like the ports of Barcelona and Valencia have. After the closing of the maritime section of the digital newspaper Europa Sur, something we have failed to understand, EED has emerged, and we believe that a weekly sheet -in principle- of information about our sector has its place.

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