GOOD FORTUNE

Colombia 2017 | TRANSPORT | FOCUS: BUENAVENTURA PORT

Colombia is blessed with being the only country in South America with direct access to the Pacific Ocean, the Caribbean Sea, and the Atlantic Ocean, but its Pacific ports have long been overshadowed by their flashier Caribbean counterparts. With an ambitious investment initiative from the public and private sector, that is about to change.

Colombia is blessed with being the only country in South America with direct access to the Pacific Ocean, the Caribbean Sea, and the Atlantic Ocean. Although all of its ports have made tremendous strides since privatization in the 1990's, Colombia's Pacific ports—Buenaventura and Tumaco—have long been overshadowed by their flashier Caribbean counterparts due to ailing infrastructure and their status of as two of Colombia's most dangerous cities. Despite being the busiest port in Colombia, moving 16 million tons of cargo in 2015 according to the Superintendencia de Puertos y Transporte, Buenaventura earned its reputation for being the battleground between rival criminal organizations, La Empresa and Los Urabeños, the heirs of prior paramilitary groups.

However, the situation is changing for the better. With Colombia's sights on Pacific Rim and East Asian trade, attracting investment and development to the Pacific coast has been a priority for the Santos administration. China has risen to become the most important trade partner after the US; a FTA recently went into effect with South Korea; and another is in the negotiation stage with Japan. More exports leave Colombia from its Caribbean ports, but growing imports from Asia have helped Buenaventura account for roughly 55-60% of the country's total foreign trade volume. In light of these developments, efforts have been made to clean up Buenaventura, and connectivity issues with the rest of the country are slated to be addressed with the massive 4G infrastructure plan. Meanwhile, hundreds of millions of dollars are being invested to upgrade the Pacific ports themselves.

In late 2016, the USD485 million first phase of Buenaventura's Aguadulce Multi-user Container Terminal (AMCT) came online. Connected to the four other terminals of the Buenaventura port, the new 600 meter dock and its four super Post-Panamax cranes are expected to bring the port's total annual capacity from around 400,000 TEUs to 600,000 TEUs. The super Post-Panamax cranes are of utmost importance for increasing the port's competitiveness in handling the largest class of shipping vessels able to cross the recently expanded Panama Canal. The main partners of AMCT are Singapore's PSA and the Philippines' International Container Terminal Services Inc. The second phase of the AMCT will further extend its length to 900m, allowing a capacity of 1.4 million TEUs. While addressing the milestone opening of AMCT, Luis Fernando Andrade hailed the investment for its contributions to the region and the country, citing that it would provide 600 new jobs.
Beyond AMCT and the four other operational terminals, the port's ambitious future includes other projects, such as Puerto Solo and Delta Del Río Dagua.

Puerto Solo, which will be contiguous to the Container Terminal of Buenaventura and Delta del Río Dagua. Approved by the Ministry of Transport in early 2016, Puerto Solo is an estimated USD1.2 billion complex from the Gepsa Group for hydrocarbons, particularly for the regasification of imported LNG and the export of propane-butane. The complex will have a total area of 150ha.

The Delta del Río Dagua Maritime Terminal is another upcoming project in the Bay of Buenaventura designed to be a mixed-use complex, with capacity to handle a diverse array of items, such as handle liquid fuel, fishery products, and lumber, in addition to hosting an industrial zone.

With strong support from both the public and private sector, Buenaventura is set to further increase its already important role in the regional and national economy. If its timely investments were to align with a significant reduction in organized crime, a successful post-conflict era, and the completion of the highly ambitious 4G infrastructure plan, the Buenaventura port would be a gamechanger for the country, and will have finally lived up to the weight of its name—Good Fortune.