28 de enero de 2000

Making Venezuela competitive. "The Oil Cruiser"

In December 1999, unleaded gasoline in the UK was being sold for the equivalent of Bs. 763 per liter. Out of this amount, Bs. 118 went to the producer who sacrifices a non-renewable resource. Bs. 37 to the distributor, and Bs. 608 to the UK taxman’s coffers in the form of various types of taxes.

The value of something is simply what the buyer is willing to pay for it. It is clear that in the above case, the producer of the oil is only able to extract a minimal portion of the value of the same, i.e. 16%. This should theoretically oblige him to take action.

The first and foremost, is to protest and fight against the indiscriminate and confiscatory taxes most countries that consume oil and its derivatives impose on it. In this sense, I am doing what I can through an organization called Petropolitan. Today, however, I wish to refer to other possibilities of extracting more value from oil.

I heard while watching a documentary, that a large cruise ship crossing the Atlantic consumes about US$ 80,000 worth of fuel oil per day. I am not sure when this documentary was produced, but there is no doubt that the cost of oil is of vital importance, both for cruise ships as well as for airlines.

Interested in the subject, I managed to get hold of a copy of a report that detailed by name and dates the different cruise ships that are to visit a particular island in the Caribbean during the month of January 2000.

With the help of a Cruise Guide I studied the list and obtained the following results:

During the month of January of this year, 54 cruise ships were scheduled to visit the island of Saint Martin, some of them more than once.

These ships represent a basic population of 92,846 passengers (two per cabin) who are cared for by a total of 39,345 crewmembers. Upon visiting the island, they get to know it, they buy things, they eat and drink, they re-supply the ship, and in general, they put the island on the tourism map.

Worldwide, the cruise industry sells more than eight million tourism packages per year (5.5 million in the United States alone), based on a fleet of almost 300 ships or which 85 have a capacity to accommodate more than 1,000 passengers.

I ask myself if it would be possible, by using our oil intelligently, to introduce Venezuela to this market and thereby manage to obtain higher yields from our oil sales than we are getting at this moment.

For example, we could come to agreements which would guarantee that each ship that docks at two Venezuelan ports and stays a minimum of 6 hours at one and 18 hours at another, has the right to take on fuel at a preferential price not greater than the marginal production cost and in quantities adjusted to the number of passengers each ship carries.

Evidently, preferential prices for fuel oil do not guarantee success. There is no doubt that passengers must want to come to Venezuela in the first place. I am sure, however, that if we were to put into place a plan like this which could be effectively sold to the owners of the cruise lines and that somehow guarantees traffic for a period of ten years, investment would immediately begin to flow towards the required infrastructure and Venezuela could achieve the required specialization in order to compete with other destinations.

I do not think anyone in rest of the Caribbean would object to this program, since the only thing that can result is an increase in tourism activity in the entire area, which would benefit everyone.

It is also possible to extend the benefits of a plan such as this one to the aviation sector. I can envisage packages, which would enable tourists to fly from New York to Porlamar in Margarita, to stay at a hotel for a week and then go back on a cruise ship.

The proposed might help to reverse the oil sector’s low job creation capacity. One employee in the tourism industry mentioned the fact that during the winter months, some Canadian cruise lines concentrated their activity in Miami. He referred to this as a “shot in the arm” for the Miami economy. I do not wish to exaggerate the possible impact of a program such as the one described here, but honestly, if Miami’s economy needs a shot in the arm, doesn't Venezuela's?

With our geographic advantages, our oil and a bit of will, Venezuela could surely become the southern capital for cruise lines in the Caribbean. This could probably be achieved without using our oil, but why not make the best use of a comparative advantage?

In the Daily Journal, Caracas, January 28, 2000