IIAR’s First Central America Conference Highlights Industry Growth

The International Institute of Ammo­nia Refrigeration held its first regional seminar for Central America and the Caribbean in Costa Rica last month, an event that marked the organization’s increasing involvement in education and safety advocacy in Latin America.

IIAR leaders said the seminar attracted a record number of attendees, from eight different Latin American countries, and offered an unprecedented opportunity for the organization to work with industrial refrigeration groups inside Costa Rica.

Seminar participants said they attended the October 15-16, 2013 meeting in San Jose, Costa Rica, to take advantage of the edu­cation and networking opportunities in a region that is seeing an increased focus on industrial refrigeration.

In Central America, where, in many cases, government regulations and safety practices are evolving to keep pace with development, the time has never been better for IIAR to supply its extensive re­sources. And that need is especially clear in countries that have not been tradition­ally focused on ammonia refrigeration, said Ricardo Mardones, President and General Manager of Houston-based consultancy, RIMA Refrigeration.

“There are no standards that ex­ist here [in Central America] that the industry can follow,” added Mardones, “So there is a big emphasis on promot­ing and adopting the IIAR standards within this region. Everyone who does business here is aware that we need these standards to grow as an industry, and to grow safely.”

Mardones was not the only U.S.-based IIAR member in attendance at the Costa Rica seminar. Large companies like GEA Refrigeration and Parker Hannifin are also looking south to new markets, and advocat­ing the widespread adoption of IIAR’s educational resources.

“There are many companies that are investing in this region now,” said Mauricio Quiroga, Sales Manager for Mexico and Central America for GEA. “Where markets were once more closed, they are opening up to investment in spurring the growth of industries that depend on our technology.”

Growing demand for agricultural products that are traditionally export­ed from Central American countries and recent free-trade agreements are bolstering an expanding cold chain.

At the same time, several of those countries, newly minted as eco-tourism destinations, find themselves facing mounting pressure, either as a result of their involvement in agree­ments like the Montreal Protocol or from the expectations of their new tourist visitors, to find environmen­tally responsible cooling technologies.

“There are a lot of agricultural produce industries, like those that grow tropical fruits and vegetables that de­pend on industrial refrigeration,” said Quiroga. “Those industries are grow­ing, but we’re more focused on ammo­nia refrigeration these days, not only because of that growth, but because there is a real emphasis on eliminating hydrocarbons in this region.”