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.”