The area will provide supplies to companies linked to Vaca Muerta. It will also develop technological innovations and allow the repair, quality control and packaging of other companies operating in the region.

Zapala Free Trade Zone will make Neuquen an important logistics center, which implies a clear competitive advantage for the region because of the development of the Hydrocarbon Industry, agribusiness, mining and technological innovation.

Zapala Free Trade Zone’s CEO Fernando Montero highlighted future prospects for the region that will grant deferrals and tax exemptions to companies that operate there. “In the long term, it will be the only Free Trade Zone in the whole country, especially due to its geographical location, as it is   at the heart of Neuquen and the country’s hydrocarbon development” he told Vaca Muerta News. “In addition, it is next to an important mining pole and close to the Alto Valle, whereby the industry, mining and hydrocarbons business makes the Free Trade Zone have a unique personality beyond its extension of 250 hectares” Montero explained.

“Another unrepeatable added value is the bi-oceanic gate. Zapala is at 500 kilometres from the Concepcion and Talcahuano Chilean Ports, which are deep water ports with a capacity of 25 large weekly ships, at 750 kilometers from the Bahía Blanca Port with which we are linked through the railroad, and 1200 kilometres from Buenos Aires, also linked by the railroad”, said Montero. “Besides, there is an operational Zapala Airport with a large 2400 meters plane track. All these attachments make the Free Trade Zone unique”, he added.

The concession and adjudication contract to a transitional union of made up of six companies (UTE) was signed this year at the end of May. The companies that comprise it are: Servicios y Consultoría SA, Zona Franca Zapala SA, Argent Pat SRL, Codesin SA, Petro Neu SA, and M y P Fundaciones Especiales SA.

Montero said that “within the Free Trade Zone an area will be exclusively developed for the industry, another for logistics, and another for ​​professional services”, clarifying that these services will also include Cryptocurrency Companies and Call Centers. “The Free Trade Zone is by law exempt from VAT on all basic services, and companies that have an intensive use of gas, electricity, communications and others, pay the services without VAT,” added the CEO to point out the interest of important firms in the region and country.

When asked about when the 250-hectare site will be fenced, the CEO of the Free Trade Zone explained that the first stage of work will be enabled by May 2020. “We are working on the bidding documents for the construction works, which we committed by concession contract with the Government. From there, we have two more years to develop the area” he said. “The good thing is that within the same property we count independently and separately with the Customs Primara Zone. This allows the incoming trucks and the train to do customs there, for merchandise inspection and classification. The merchandise then enters the Free Trade Zone, which is as if it were entering another country”, he explained.

“In the long term the 250 hectares will be completed, and there will be an industry area which will cover 35% of the total area. 40% is logistics and the rest are services. In the short term, we are beginning the first phase of the 20 hectares and estimate it will be enabled next year by May. This rating also depends on the Customs and the Free Trade Zone Management System. This takes time to implement, and training of the personnel that will operate it”, said Montero.

“Simultaneously, other works such as soil movement will be carried out. This will take a while since there is a clay layer of 20 centimetres with pure rock on top in Zapala. We hope that the weather is on our side, and aim to start the enabling of the first stage in May with the Primara Zone Customs, Reconditioning of the Concessionaire’s Office, Reconditioning of Surveillance Committee Office,  create an office for Firefighters and for First Aid”, he said.

Montero detailed the infrastructure works and recalled that two large sheds of 1000 meters each will be built, a workshop of 9400 meters will me opened for storage, a parking for cars and trucks will be built and a balance that is already based will be reconditioned. “There is a very large scale and it must be recalibrate. All that will be done in the short term. In the medium term, 24 months or before, we expect to complete the first 20 hectares and the rest of the 250 hectares after”, he summarised.

The CEO of the Zapala Free Trade Zone announced that there is a great interest from different companies to settle on the property. “We are negotiating the first user contracts within the Free Trade Zone and to my surprise, the first are Mining Companies that will process minerals within the Free Trade Zone.”

“But, in addition, there is a barrage of dispatchers, logistics operators, large national transport companies. They are reserving spaces and the fear is to fall short with the extension of the land of 20 hectares. Actually, we are very excited”, Fernando Montero closed.