According to Ventura Group, Buenaventura port terminals are losing competitiveness in the region due to the draft conditions of the access channel. Although it is decisive for the arrival of ships with great draft, there are additional factors and conditions that affect the competitiveness of the Buenaventura port cluster and its lag in competitiveness.
Ventura Group is an organization dedicated to the handling of bulk cargo (Cereals, Flour, Fertilizers, Chemicals), general and minerals for loading, unloading, storage and distribution through the Buenaventura maritime terminal, formed by Inatlantic SA, Grupo Portuario as a multipurpose dock, OPP Graneles SA, BGP Container & Logistics SA and the Étika Verde Foundation.
The main ports of Colombia on the Colombian Caribbean and Pacific, Cartagena and Buenaventura, are also strategic ports in the Latin American region.
The port of Cartagena is listed as the fourth in the region in cargo movement, according to the latest report on port activity for Latin America and the Caribbean by ECLAC.
For its part, the port of Buenaventura ranks 12th in the region, according to this same report.
In the last 15 years, these two port terminals went from being complementary nodes to a transshipment node, in the case of Cartagena, and to a primary node in the case of Buenaventura.
This progress was revealed by the Development Bank of Latin America (CAF) in its report “Analysis of port investments in Latin America and the Caribbean for the 2040 horizon.”
Thanks to this, both ports were positioned, not only as the main ones in Colombia, but also among the most important in Latin America.
The case of Buenaventura, in particular, is to highlight, since in recent years it managed to climb from position 18 to 12, where it is currently.
Buenaventura port area is key
In the Pacific region of South America, only the ports of Callao (Peru), Guayaquil (Ecuador), Buenos Aires (Argentina) and San Antonio (Chile), are ahead of the port of Buenaventura, according to the registered cargo movement.
However, the one in the Colombian Pacific region is the most strategic due to its proximity to the Panama Canal, followed by Guayaquil and Callao.
However, the main Ecuadorian port has a fundamental disadvantage, since its draft is less than the Colombian one. At high tide the port of Guayaquil reaches a depth of 12.5 meters, and at low tide it reaches 11.85 meters.
For its part, the port of Buenaventura has a dredging depth of 12.5 meters at low tide and 15.5 at high tide. This represented an important advantage for the Colombian port.
But, in 2016 the port operators of Buenaventura issued an alert to the Colombian Government, as the Government of the neighboring country, Ecuador, signed a 50-year concession with the DP World company for the construction of a deepwater port in Posorja.
For this reason, on August 9, 2019, the first super postpanamax ship entered the port of Posorja, according to El Universo, and formally began operations at this port terminal.
Since then, the 5 port terminals of Buenaventura, Sociedad Portuaria, Agua Dulce, TC Buen, Grupo Portuario and Compas, increased their concern about the lag in the draft of the access channel to the port.
And it is that the 15.5 meters deep of the port of Buenos Aires in favorable conditions of high tide, does not even exceed the 16.5 meters of draft of the port of Posorja at low tide, and much less competes at the 19.5 meters of the Ecuadorian port at high tide.
This caused the main port of Colombia in the Pacific to lose competitiveness in the region, and the consequences are already evident.
According to El Universo, Cristina Lazo, legal and government affairs manager at DP World Posorja, acknowledged that part of the cargo they have captured is that which was going to Buenaventura. “Transshipment merchandise that used to go to Colombia and Peru, now we are handling that cargo,” Lazo told the newspaper.
In 2019, the port of Buenaventura decreased cargo handling by 26.8%, according to data from the Superintendency of Transportation. Although the report did not have data from the last quarter of the Buenaventura Regional Port Society, the Ministry of Transport itself acknowledges that the port is reducing its operation.
For the first half of this year, the situation did not change. In this period, the cargo moved by the port of Buenaventura fell 23.6%, according to the Superintendency of Transportation, and, although the report did not have data from the last two months of the period, this downward trend completes 1 year and medium.
This reduction in cargo mobilized through the Colombian port is occurring mainly due to the impact of the entry into operation of the port of Posorja, since ships save time and cost by not stopping in Buenaventura.
In June 2019, some of the large shipping lines that transhipped in Buenaventura withdrew and moved to the port of Posorja.
As a consequence, during the last semester of 2019 some 300,000 containers stopped arriving at the port of Buenos Aires, mainly transshipment cargo, according to Dinero. In addition, the Buenaventura Chamber of Commerce projects that this figure will triple by the end of this year, which poses a worrying outlook.
The governor of the Valley, Clara Luz Roldán, assures that the dredging of Buenaventura must be seen as a priority not only for the Valley, but also for Colombia. Roldán told Dinero that “we have a very important port, but we are losing with Guayaquil.”
For the former Minister of Finance of Colombia, Rudolf Hommes, “this problem has very serious economic and social consequences, because not only does it affect ports and the country’s competitiveness, but it is depriving Buenaventura of both employment and development opportunities. economic. If the large ships do not arrive, but smaller draft feeder boats, it is condemned to wither as a port and as a center of logistics activity, ”according to FAN.
The promise of the National Government
For the National Government, “the competitiveness of the port of Buenaventura is a priority issue, therefore, regarding the aspect of deepening it, the Ministry of Transport, together with ANI and INVIAS, continue the related studies for the deepening dredging of the port access channel. Additionally, since July 1, maintenance dredging of the Estero San Antonio in Buenaventura has been carried out. ” according to the Ministry of Transport.
According to the Ministry, the Government “is working on the formulation of the port policy, for which the resource needs are being identified and the strategy is being developed through consideration to guarantee the budgetary allocations to the deepening dredging of Buenaventura, which is estimated at about U $ 240 million
Increasing dredging to a depth of 15 meters at low tide would cost US $ 146 million. However, the Ministry of Transport states that if the dredging is done, it would do so to increase it to 16 meters. This represents an increase in the cost of the work, which would approach US $ 250 million.
Taking the dredging to a depth of 15 meters at low tide would cost US $ 146 million. But the Transport Ministry said that, if it did so, it would bet on a depth of 16 meters, which would raise the work to US $ 245 million.
According to Dinero, in Buenaventura, they propose an option for the budget of the work, the freezing of the payment for five years of the considerations to the national government.
Currently, the port pays US $ 23 million per year, of which the Nation returns 16% for its maintenance. In this way, the Government annually receives $ 185,437 million for port compensation, according to Invías data. Of that money, Buenaventura contributes $ 61,936 million (33.4% of the total collection).
The concrete thing is that as the days go by and discussions, plans, and proposals are presented, the port loses more and more competitiveness in the region.
The port of Posorja continues to generate negative effects on the operations of the Buenaventura port terminals.
Although a first-generation port is understood as a connection node in the transport of maritime merchandise to land, rail or river. It is said of a second-generation port where there is a port system of cooperation and interaction between the port authority, port operators, facilitating the possibility of transshipping cargo and processing it more efficiently. A third-generation port would then involve transformation and industrial processes giving added value to import and export cargo and finally, a fourth-generation port where global terminal operators or maritime lines operating ports take control of a port facilitating exchange. of information and unifying the use of systems.
The Buenaventura port cluster has ports of different generations but there really is no strategic projection, the ports in Buenaventura have not worked together to facilitate trade and cooperation. That only a port with container handling called Porsoja can negatively affect the operations of an entire port cluster means that these ports must cooperate and evolve allowing them to handle maquilas, distribution and transformation centers, looking for ways to compensate with the processing of export cargo, which would return the touches of the main services of the lines.
Likewise, optimizing the bottleneck of land transport that exists in the Cali-Buenaventura corridor by promoting rail transport, which also affects the competitiveness of a port.
The competitiveness of a port not only depends on dredging but on a number of variables that make up its service, infrastructure and superstructure.