COLOMBIA: Controversy on the Barranquilla access channel dredging

Canal de acceso Puerto de Barranquilla - Dragado Colombia
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The gaps in the maritime regulation of Colombia not only affects our interaction with other countries but internally complicates the development of our maritime and port activities. The access channel through the Port of Barranquilla does not have the conditions to receive ships. On multiple occasions, the ships are stranded by sedimentation of the Magdalena River. In that sense, the national government, out of necessity and pressure from the marketers, industrialists, and ports, decides to take action on the issue of this bottleneck, but not before uncovering controversy in the costs of the contract to ensure the flow of maritime operations.

The lack of clearness in the national regulation of the piloting service of a permanent vessel in the national territory generated an alert by the Port of Barranquilla, who warns Asoportuaria about the extra cost that would generate the payment of practical pilot services in the budget for the permanent dredging that if done, would represent 28% of the USD 2 million.

Previously the dredging of the channel was reactive, so its duration did not exceed 15 days. Furthermore, an approximate practical pilot service cost of USD 7,388 is not a representative cost for this type of dredging contracts.

On December 27, 2019, a communication was sent to the Dimar in which it asked the maritime authority to review the pilotage, funding, inspectors and other associated costs, taking into account the industrial and port needs of the region. It also states that the “excessive” cost of pilots could put at risk the interest of the dredging companies in participating in the upcoming tender to dredge the access channel during 2020.

Likewise, Asoportuaria requests to consider that, in other South American countries such as Peru, there is the situation that once the ship enters the same port a certain number of days, it no longer needs to have a practical pilot.

The Colombian State, under Law 658 of 2001, regulates maritime and river activity as a public service in maritime and river areas. This rule establishes that when a national or foreign flag vessel enters a Colombian port, it must be accompanied by a pilot, who is responsible for guiding the vessel until it reaches its mooring area for the respective loading and unloading operation until departure.

In that sense, vessels that arrive at the port of Barranquilla must enter with a practical pilot to their destination dock, including dredges that arrive to remove sediment from the access channel.

To this gap in the regulation that would affect the cost of the project, DIMAR responded by setting a fee for the service of practical pilots during the duration of dredging operation of no more than USD 123,556, according to El Heraldo. Likewise, the DIMAR explains that the dredging would be 250 days and 875 cycles of arrival and departure of the dredge, so the remuneration for the practical pilot for this concept would be US $ 141.49 without involving another related activity, as confirmed by El Heraldo.

Call to contract dredging

FINDETER, the Territorial Development Finance Office Opened the call for maintenance work on the access channel with an approximate cost of COP 23,580 Millions that are part of the future validities approved by the Government to guarantee the navigability of the Magdalena River during 2020.

Previously, Cormagdalena and FINDETER had signed an inter-administrative contract for COP 38,999 Million for the recovery of the navigability of the Magdalena River between the oil port of Barrancabermeja and the municipality of Pinillos, and the 22 kms of access channel to the Port of Barranquilla, up to the delta of the river in Bocas de Ceniza.

Source El Heraldo

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