Press Releases

IFC Provides $45 million to the Largest Barge Operator in the Paraná-Paraguay River System in South America

In Washington, D.C.:
Adriana Gomez

Phone: +1(202) 458 5204 – Fax: +1 (202) 974-4384


Washington DC, July 25, 2003—The International Finance Corporation (IFC), the private sector arm of the World Bank Group, will provide a $45 million financing package to UABL Limited, the largest barge operator on the Paraná-Paraguay river system in South America.  IFC’s investment is part of an overall $85 million investment plan to expand UABL’s barge and tug fleet and loading terminal network.

The Paraná-Paraguay river system is part of a large river transportation network, which consists of over 3,000 km of waterways that connect Bolivia, Paraguay and inland Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay with the Atlantic Ocean. It is the primary export route for agricultural products from landlocked Paraguay and Bolivia, and is an important transportation link in the region. The region serviced by UABL has experienced rapid growth in many sectors, including agriculture, over the last decade.  Historically, lack of adequate infrastructure and transportation has limited producers’ ability to export.  IFC’s investment will help expand UABL’s services and lower the cost of transportation for all industries in the region, thus contributing to the growth of production and exports in the region.  

IFC's financial package for UABL consists of loans of $20 million for IFC's own account, syndicated loans totaling $10 million by Nederlandse Financierings-Maatschappij Voor Ontwikkelingslanden N.V. (FMO), the Dutch development bank, and a parallel loan of $10 million by Kreditanstalt für Wiederaufbau (KfW), the German development bank.  The IFC’s package also includes an equity investment of $5 million for its own account.

UABL is owned 50% each by Ultrapetrol (Bahamas) Limited, a diversified shipping company with tanker and bulk carrier operations throughout Latin America, and Kentucky-based American Commercial Lines, the world’s largest barge operator with extensive operations in the U.S. and South America.

“IFC’s financing for UABL will lower the cost of transportation on the Paraná-Paraguay river system, increase the competitive advantage of the agricultural sector in the region and support continued growth in agricultural production and exports in the Mercosur, which is critical for the resumption of export-led economic growth in the region,” said Francisco Tourreilles, Director of IFC's Infrastructure Department.

“The financing to UABL fits IFC’s strategy to support transport projects in less developed areas in Latin America, thus helping expand business opportunities in these areas and improve local living standards,” noted Bernard Pasquier, IFC's Director of the Latin America and Caribbean Department  “By providing the long-term financing package to UABL, IFC demonstrates its continued support to the private sector in the region,” he added.

Felipe Menéndez Ross, President of UABL, stated, "We are very pleased to welcome IFC’s support to UABL.  With the appropriate funding in place, we will be able to further our services and become more efficient in our operation by offering integrated transportation solutions throughout the river system.  Simply adding more capacity to the river does not resolve the problem.  We have to create the infrastructure that will allow the cargoes to be handled efficiently and propose a package of services to the customers that will answer their needs.”

IFC's mission ( is to promote sustainable private sector investment in developing countries, helping to reduce poverty and improve people's lives. IFC finances private sector investments in the developing world, mobilizes capital in the international financial markets, helps clients improve social and environmental sustainability, and provides technical assistance and advice to governments and businesses. From its founding in 1956 through FY02, IFC has committed more than $34 billion of its own funds and arranged $21 billion in syndications for 2,825 companies in 140 developing countries. IFC's worldwide committed portfolio as of FY02 was $15.1 billion for its own account and $6.5 billion held for participants in loan syndications.