Today we share the analysis shared by the newspaper El Universal about the sad reality that Colombia is a country without a merchant marine so that we reflect on the loss of our oceanic and maritime consciousness and that despite having two coasts, in the Pacific Ocean and in the Caribbean Sea, 98 thousand square kilometers of maritime extension, around 53 port terminals and docks, terminals on the high seas, does not have a merchant marine.
The merchant marine is the set of ships, boats and other ships that are engaged in maritime trade, tourism or recreational activities, which are manned by non-military sailors and who pay taxes to the country where they are registered, where their flags are.
According to figures from the Colombian Association of Shipowners (ARMCOL), 80% of the main ships that work in the country are registered in other countries and, therefore, do not pay taxes in Colombia and a similar percentage of ships and yachts that circulate in Colombian waters, They are also registered abroad. Most Colombian flagged ships are tugs and minor artifacts.
In the latest Transport in Figures report from the Ministry of Transport, published last year, there are only 23 main ships registered in the country (more than a thousand tons of gross weight), which reveals the low interest of the government in registering ships with the Colombian. flag (You may be interested: Hyundai Hope, the largest container ship that has arrived in Cartagena).
In favor of the Colombian flag
The merchant marine is another weak point that confirms the urgent need to develop public policies in favor of the maritime sector, which for years have been demanding from those who engage in this type of activity.
“The nationality of a ship brings reciprocal advantages if the flag State so determines, in leading countries, the shipowner can access a series of incentives through specific supports that translate into qualitative and quantitative increases in their fleet, for therefore, the logistics chain derived from shipping the industry is also compatible ”, indicates an ARMCOL document.
In addition, the State does not pay freight to foreign shipping companies and job creation is promoted since the crew, 80%, must be born in Colombia, in accordance with national legislation.
To make the full potential of the Colombian flag visible, maritime companies and institutions have joined together since 2016 to commemorate Merchant Navy Day, every June 8, with spaces for the participation of the actors in the sector.
Diana Osorio, director of the Entremar institution and promoter of Merchant Marine Day, indicates that “it has been a great effort to bring together the sector’s stakeholders to speak, debate and propose what is needed for there to be a regulation that favors the navy Colombian merchant. ”
He added that in this scenario of discussion the support of Senator Iván Darío Agudelo was obtained, who attended the celebration last year and decided to support the sector from the Sixth Committee of the Senate.
However, Osorio emphasizes that to be visible and supported by the Government, the will and participation of more actors is required. “In general, we are always the same ones that promote debate spaces in favor of the Colombian merchant marine and general policies in favor of maritime affairs, that is vital to make us visible.”
Abroad, references to the importance of a merchant fleet for the national economy abound. Bolivia, for example, which has no exit to the sea, has a specific policy around its merchant marine, which registers about 30 ships.
Colombia had a merchant marine
The Grancolombiana merchant fleet, created in the middle of the last century with Colombian, Venezuelan and Ecuadorian capital, marked a moment of glory for the merchant marine in the country, since it promoted the export of local products such as bananas, cotton and coffee, which paid minimum quantities in freight and came to employ more than 2,000 Colombian sailors. Its fleet became 45 ships. (Also read: Colombia improves the times in the shipment of merchandise of foreign trade).
“It began to decline with the economic opening in the 90s, we let the years go by and it was never renewed, now our fleet is very small and it is very difficult for us to reach that level again, so the best option is to register ships with the Colombian flag ”, Explains the director of Entremar.
The merchant fleet was established on June 8, 1946 and it is in honor of this that the date of the Merchant Navy Day was designated.