Introducing The Puerto Cabello Non-Baltic Index (PCNI)

January 28, 2016


The picture above created a lot of noise on Jan. 19th. It is a picture of the La Guaira port just outside Caracas, showing that there were no ships unloading anything that date. The picture was purportedly shown as proof that famine is coming to Venezuela as imports had ground to a halt. Moreover, people suggested, this also proved that the country was about to default.

The faulty reasoning about the picture is that the La Guaira Port has not been the main source of food imports for Venezuela for quite a while. In fact, most ships that stop in La Guaira are container ships, bringing “stuff” or “peroles”, as Venezuelans like to call them. Venezuela’s main port is the Puerto Cabello port, where most food imports come to the country, as the Port has silos for storage, grain sucking facilities, as well as liquid discharge facilities.

A while back I wrote a post about how ships carry  an AIS (Automatic Identification System) which allows all ships to be tracked. There are websites like this one or this one, where you can follow each step of what is going on. At the time, I was interested in the fact that there was a slowdown in downloading cargoes due to inefficiencies. Thus, on Jan. 19th. when the La Guaira picture circulated I compared picture from my post in May 2014, with that from the first website I mentioned on Jan. 19th.:


What I found was that on Jan. 19th. (right panel) there were 15 ships in port, the same number as in May 2014 (left panel), the difference being that in 2014, there were many ships outside waiting to go in. But the number of ships unloading stuff were the same on the two dates: Fifteen.

Of course, this is a static picture, may depend at what time of day you go in, for example; and you don’t know what it is that these ships are unloading at any time. Some could be container ships bringing nails, rather than being grains or something else

Thus, I decided to start going into the website frequently and writing down the number of cargo ships in port and call it the Puerto Cabello Non-Baltic Index (PCNI) and follow it in time and report any significant changes. As I said, this is just an indication of the number of ships and it could be that its not all food. But should the PCNI drop at some point it would indicate that there is indeed trouble in the future in terms of food supply.

I have been taking data since Jan. 19th. simply recording the number of ships docked, whether they are container ships or not (I could actually look at each ship in the website and see what type it is). I hope this is useful in evaluating whether tougher times are coming and in making more quantitative whether things are going to become serious or not in the absence of hard Government data on any of these matters in real time.

Below is the first plot since then. It began with 15 ships and it has indeed been going down in the last few days, with 9 ships today, but according to the webpage 6 ships are due to arrive, even if it does not say when:


There is clearly a downtrend, but it is not clear whether this is due to the Xmas season (Venezula shuts down for Xmas) or whether it si something to worry about. In a few days we should know.

I will try to update it whenever the changes are significant




33 Responses to “Introducing The Puerto Cabello Non-Baltic Index (PCNI)”

  1. Moises Lejter Says:

    Hi! Could you update your chart? I took a look today (2/14/16), and there seem to be only 3-4 ships at the port, and maybe 3 more nearby, due in…

  2. Ira Says:

    Anyone hear of any talk about reopening the consulate in Miami?

  3. Robbie Says:

    Here’s a similar link for aircraft
    Interesting to compare landing activity in Bogota compared to Caracas. When there appears to be a number of aircraft in Venezuela most of them are at 30,000 plus feet on their way to Brazil or thereabouts.
    There would also seem to be a higher number of private aircraft in Venezuela.

  4. elpemon Says:

    It shouldn’t be exceedingly difficult to have a javascript or a python script that automates these tasks for you…

    • Roger Says:

      Such a patriot Mr. Lopez is. When I did imports to Venezuela in the early 90’s we would go to customs with large amounts of cash to pay the bribes to such as Lopez to get our stuff past customs. For private importers I am sure this is still the case (Daniel?) and a long standing part of the culture. For food imported by the ministry of feeding for the Venezuelans that need it, this is a crime against the Motherland! If the ministry of feeding is dealing with private importers who do such things, they are all guilty of crimes
      against the Motherland and need to be punished. This is not a Socialista or Nationalista thing but rather what a nation needs to to survive. Excessive corruption is unacceptable to both.
      In the tropics, food, water, medicine and a grass hut are what people value most and in the days of the true Liberator, a loin cloth, a long sharp spear and bridle for their horse was a the mark of the wealth of a man and they defeated the Spanish against all odds. Of course as they like to remind us in Amazonas state, let’s not forget the Amazons in their loin cloths! I want (no shit) a woman who would like to come north loin cloth or not. When I was there, I held out for a Doctora with a Hato of at least 10,000 Hectars! But, things change here and there so we all just make the best of it. Moctavio has my e-mail and though tempting Id rather not switch to Mexican Doctoras at this time in my life!

  5. Roger Says:

    It is tempting to buy a subscription to see where theses ships came from or went to along the way like Cuba. Also, some seem to be local like Colombia and Panama making it possible that say American Corn was bought thru a third country at prices much higher than international trading prices and with a dark money trail? The AN has one hell of a job investigating how the government food programs are being run and how they need to be run to save money while they try to get things running. Real countries buy grain futures thru reputable traders and in the case of Venezuela, on the same floor they sell their oil futures. There are a lot of trails to follow and dark holes to plug up.

  6. JCG Says:

    Is actually worse than that – In Pto Cabello Your would normally have an average between 14-16 ships per week in 2014 That frequency went down to about 6 ships in 2015 . As to the vessel you mentioned note on Jan 25th only 6 vessel were discharging something, the rest are tugboats…

    • moctavio Says:

      I take out tugboats, only count cargo ships. The numbers can be biased by the time you sample. For example, today there are only three in port right now, no tugboats, six ships are expected.

  7. Luisa Mosquera Says:

    thank you so much for this information which in light of the current situation paints an either doom or quasi not total doom scenario.. what is clear is that there are less and less goods available to purchase.. at least for those of us that live on fixed incomes in bolivars.. >

  8. Lee Kuan Yew Says:

    Other countries like Argentina or Greece have messed up, defaulting on their debts, for being too dependent, and having horrible financial planning. But even they still know how to Produce something in their own lands. They will never starve, like Venezuelans will, unless the IMF bails them out.

    In Margarita, apparently they even forgot how to Fish to get something on the dinner plate. Instead, they literally Worship Drug dealers like El Conejo, and expect ” El Gobielno” to give them everything, for free. Free gas, free transportation, free “education” (as if they were getting truly educated) , free electricty, no Taxes, ” artificial presios justos”, free houses, bogus government jobs, palancas, segundas, tigritos, as they do nothing and hardly even Work. They all dream of the next Enchufe, in one of the world-record 37 “ministerios”. Or at least una “chamba con el sindicato”..

    Well, one day they will be forced to plant a Lechosa plant, entertain a few chickens and get their own eggs, or go out again on that old peñero and catch a fish. Unless they forgot how to fish too.

  9. Lee Kuan Yew Says:

    Perhaps one day, the Venezuelan “pueblo” will begin to understand to you have to grow food, plant plants, work on the land, raise cattle and sheep and chickens and rabbits, build something, produce something, and Lord forbid, even export something that is not heavy oil.

    Does “el pueblo” even remember how to grow a tomato plant, or even harvest some caña de azucar with a machete? Do they even remember how to plan a mango tree, and then sell some mangoes?

  10. Tom ODonnell Says:

    Miguel! Great idea. (You need an intern to include some data on the ships and type of cargoes – if that is possible to know?)

    By the way: Back around 2008 – 11 or so, when everyone was trying to figure out how much oil PDVSA was exporting, Ramirez began providing raw data on oil tankers coming and going from Venezuelan ports.
    There is a fellow who has long worked at Energy Intelligence in NYC who made serious efforts to analyze the data, however, he told me it was really difficult. For example it turns out a lot of the oil tanker traffic is inter-Venezuelan.

    Good luck with this!

  11. Antonio Says:

    Can you tell how many oil tankers go from Venezuela to Cuba?

  12. Roger Says:

    If you dig down they have a port report with ships and report of the last few weeks. could not post the link?

    • moctavio Says:

      Sorry Roger, if it has a link it goes for moderation as spam comments tend to do that and I am in Caracas and did not have access to a computer to approve comment.

  13. I visited one of the sites. You can click on an icon and get the name and type of ship and some sort of generalization about the cargo. This information can be copied down and you can see how long a ship stays in port and other things.

  14. Lobo Says:

    There is no money for food or medicine. Its bad, really bad.

  15. Caracas Canadian Says:

    Miguel, I have data in the office from end of January 2015 through to June 2015. When I get to office in the morning I will email that to you so you can have a good set of comparison data.

  16. Freddy Ríos Rios Says:

    Has belén like that at all venezuelan ports for the las two years.

  17. Maria Says:

    “whether this is die to the Xmas ”
    Sorry, Miguel, I did not explain myself above.

  18. Maria Says:


  19. Rene Says:

    Awesome Miguel, keep us posted. The La Guaira port has been empty for quite a while, Las viejas del Cafetal estaban vueltas locos con las fotos.

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