COLOMBIA: A country without multimodal river transport
Despite the benefits in terms of cost reduction and impact on the environment, multimodal river navigation, and that Colombia has a river network that extends throughout the national territory, there have been no major advances in this area due to lack of vision and corruption.
Fluvial Master Plan 2013 – 2015
The Government of Colombia during 2013 and 2015 created a Fluvial Master Plan (PMF) with the objective of connecting to the most remote areas of the country, where rivers constitute an important access road and use these corridors to transport cargo materials. However, those purposes have not been fully fulfilled and only until recently did the potential of rivers for the Colombian economy begin to materialize, newspaper El Universal reported.
The PMF recognizes the advantages of river navigation in the modern world, as it is competitive and clean. According to the report, “costs per ton / kilometer are lower compared to other modes of transportation and carbon emissions are low.” In this sense, it was intended to create a developed, beneficial transportation system for passengers, merchandise, and cargo for social development.
The axes were based on the creation of adequate infrastructure and interconnections, clarifying or reorganizing the institutional policy regarding the operation, promotion, and financing of navigation in rivers. To this end, the plan identified five navigable basins, made up of different rivers and their tributaries: Magdalena, Atrato, Orinoco, Amazonas and Pacífico, and other bodies of water usable for navigation, such as lagoons, reservoirs and dams.
Likewise, it differentiated two types of navigation: the “largest”, which includes all ships that carry loads of more than 25 tons, and the “smallest”, for passenger transport and small-scale trade. However, research They detected various problems in the river infrastructure. “With the exception of the Magdalena River, the general condition of the piers and wharves is precarious. Given this, a substantial push is required to improve the quality of the river infrastructure,” the analysis highlighted. Additionally, difficulties related to the age and obsolescence of a large part of the freshwater fleet, lack of budget for the sector, high taxes compared to maritime transport, lack of training for personnel other than crew, and the lack of promotion and use of the modality in It should be noted that, while in regions such as Brazil and the European Union they mobilize 6% of their cargo through rivers, in Colombia the percentage only reaches 1%.
In 2018, representatives of the sector made requests to the Government on the challenges and problems that river navigation goes through. At that time it was concluded that there was no clear and up-to-date policy on the matter. Currently, the situation is a little different. The president of the National Federation of Shipping Companies (Fedenavi), Andrés Londoño, said that they welcome how the attitude of the Government has begun to change since it now appreciates more the competitive potential of multimodal transport. “This occurs within the framework of the National Council for Economic and Social Policy Republic of Colombia (Conpes) 3982, where it is evident that river transport saves costs by up to 50%,” he concluded.