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Colombia 2013 | TRANSPORT | REVIEW: TRANSPORT

With the 2014 national elections approaching, the government is looking to leave a legacy in the transport sector and improve the general infrastructure of the country.

Colombia is looking to focus on improving its transport infrastructure to boost both internal connectivity and international trade. The country is in a rare geographical location with the ability to operate ports on both the Pacific and Atlantic oceans; however, it can also be a hindrance as the topography of the country is very mountainous, with the Andes splitting into three ranges as it enters the country from the south heading up to the Atlantic ocean in the north. This topography has meant that the rail sector is almost non-existent in the majority of the country, and the road infrastructure is in need of funding for upgrades and extensions.

Colombia is ranked 69th in competitiveness according to the World Economic Forum, yet it is ranked 108th in terms of roads. This is why, through fourth generation public-private partnerships (PPP), the Agencia Nacional de Infraestructura (ANI) is planning to invest $20 billion over the next two years to improve the road network in the country. It also aims to increase the annual investment in transport infrastructure sector wide from $1.5 billion to $6 billion. At the moment, transport infrastructure investment constitutes 1% of GDP, of which 50% is through PPPs. The ANI wants to increase the GDP percentage to 3%, with 2% coming from PPPs by the end of the current government's term.

As in most countries that are in Colombia's situation, it is sitting on huge amounts of natural resources, but at the moment is lacking in the infrastructure to efficiently get the resources to market. In an effort to avoid any future bottlenecks as industries increase their demand,the government is about to open negotiations for up to 30 different infrastructure projects throughout the country. There has been a lot of interest in the country recently, especially from South Korean and Brazilian companies that are interested in taking part in the tendering process, which should begin by the end of 2014.

ROAD

Colombia has a wide reaching network of roads, totaling 128,485 kilometers in total. There was an estimated 3 million cars in Colombia in 2012, which would equate to 23 cars for every kilometer. There was also 2.3 million motorcycles on the road, or 18 bikes for every kilometer of road. Although it is possible to drive to almost any village in the country, the quality of the road soon deteriorates when travelling off the main routes to and from major population centers, such as Bogotá. The ANI has initiated plans to increase the capacity and extend the current dual-lane highway network. “We will go from 800 kilometers of highways to 1,700 kilometers by 2014," Luis Fernando Andrade Moreno, President of the ANI, told TBY. This road project is part of the $6 billion sector wide investment being made, and by the end of the entire project there should be 3,400 kilometers of duel-lane highways connecting the major population centers with commercial hubs.

RAIL

Even though the rail network in Colombia is small, with just 1,672 kilometers of rail lines, there are plans to increase capacity for commercial usage. Due to the terrain of the country, it is not practical or feasible to connect most parts of the country by rail. However, an ambitious project to connect the Pacific Ocean to the Caribbean could change the sector's fortunes. The ANI, through PPPs, plans to invest $6 billion to repair and extend existing lines in the Magdalena Valley, south of Bogotá. The line is 900 kilometers long at the moment, but only 300 kilometers of it is generally used. The project would be split into two parts, the first being repairing the existing line while the second part would be building a new line from coal mines in the Pacific region moving all the way up through the Boyaca region, connect with existing line in the Magdalena Valley, and hopefully reach the Caribbean by 2019. The ANI is looking toward the coal industry to help fund this project. There are no plans at the moment to develop the railway for passenger use.

SEA

Colombia is trying to position itself as a major transshipment hub for the Pacific and Caribbean regions. It is in the rare position of being both close and having ports on either side of the Panama Canal. On the Caribbean side, the major ports are Santa Marta, Barranquilla, and Cartagena, while on the Pacific side it is the Port of Buenaventura. The Port of Santa Marta was privatized in 1991, but still remains 20% owned by the public sector. Because more than 70% of the Colombian market is located over 800 kilometers away from the coast, “we have planned an additional $107 million for a new railroad that will connect the port of Santa Marta to the national rail system," Mauricio Suárez Ramírez, General Manager & CEO of the Puerto de Santa Marta Sociedad Portuaria, explained to TBY. It is also investing an extra $60 million in creating an additional dock to increase the capacity of the port. The port is also currently in discussions with its partners about a $240 million investment to increase the liquid capacity to 4 million barrels of nominal storage. Around the Sociedad Portuaria Regional de Cartagena (SPRC), Pacific Infrastructure has started the Puerto Bahía project to improve the liquid storage capacity of the country. “When the first phase is complete during the 2nd quarter of 2014, we will have 1.7 million barrels (bbl) of storage capacity," Juan Ricardo Noero, President & CEO of Pacific Infrastructure, explained. This will make the total capacity of the port 2.7 million bbl with future aspirations to reach a total of 7 million bbl. The facility will handle both imports and exports through two docks that will be able to service vessels of up to 80,000 deadweight tons (dwt) and 150,000 dwt. It will move 200,000 bbl per day, with additional room to expand as the national production of oil continues to rise. In conjunction with the Sociedad Portuaria Regional de Cartagena (SPRC), Pacific Infrastructure will be undertaking the Canal de Varadero, which will provide a new access into Cartagena Bay. It will give shipping companies an alternative access to the Bay with a draft of 19 meters, which is an extra four meters on the existing channel. Varadero will allow container ships carrying up to 12,000 TEU and Suezmax vessels carrying up to 1.2 million bbl of crude oil access to the bay.

AIR

As with Colombia's ports, its airports are also in a strategic position to become a hub for the entire continent of the Americas. Currently, the vast majority of international flights leave through El Dorado airport in Bogotá. In 2012, it moved 22.5 million passengers, making it the third busiest in Latin America, and 637,153 tons of cargo, which made it the busiest airport in Latin America in terms of cargo. The airport accounts for nearly 50% of total air traffic in the country, and in 2012 there were 316,704 aircraft operations through the airport. The busiest international route was to Miami, followed by Panama City, with 670,258 and 623,597 passengers, respectively, and the busiest domestic route was to Medellín, followed by Cali, with 2.8 million and 2.3 million passengers, respectively in 2012. Another major airport in Colombia is the Rafael Núñez Airport in Cartagena, overseen by the Sociedad Aeropuertuaria de la Costa (SACSA). In 2010, 2.12 million passengers and 7,093 tons of cargo passed through the airport. In March 2013, it completed a $55 million upgrade to increase its annual capacity to 4 million passengers. Further investments planned will also involve purchasing new airport equipment, such as fire trucks and x-ray machines, building a new terminal to accommodate private jets, as well as refurbishing the existing runway, which should be completed by 2015. Ernesto Cortissoz International Airport in Barranquilla may not be the busiest airport in Colombia; however, it is in discussions with the Barranquilla Free Zone Authority in order to obtain a free zone license. If successful, the plan is to invite an aviation parts wholesaler to the airport and move Airbus and Boeing repair stations to the airport.