Port of Buenaventura

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The Port of Buenaventura, Colombia's main port on the Pacific Ocean, is located on Cascajal Island, where the Dagua River meets Buenaventura Bay. [1]

Historically the port has handled only small volumes of coal exports. However, China has expressed tentative interest in expanding the port as part of a US$7.6 billion project that would link Colombia's interior coalfields with Buenaventura via a newly constructed railway, thereby facilitating large-scale exports of Colombian coal across the Pacific.

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Background

In 2007 the port handled 2.9 million tons of cargo, including 519,000 metric tons of coal. The port's total cargo figures have increased steadily over time, exceeding 4 million tons in 2014; however, coal exports have shrunk dramatically, with only 244,201 tons exported in 2013, 46,202 tons in 2014, and 99,788 tons in 2015 (the last full year for which records were available as of February 2018).[2] Port of Buenaventura also reports considerably less capacity for storing and loading coal shipments than the nearby Port of Aguadulce, which began commercial operations in 2017. Company websites indicate that Buenaventura can store up to 16,800 tons of coal vs 110,000 tons for Aguadulce, with a daily loading capacity of 5500 tons per day at Buenaventura vs 24,000 tons per day at Aguadulce.[3][4]

Since 2011, there has been speculation about a possible rail link between Puerto Buenaventura and the Caribbean Coast, to be built by the Chinese as an alternative to the Panama Canal. If constructed, the railway would allow large-scale transport of coal from Colombia's interior coalfields to the Port of Buenaventura, where it could be exported across the Pacific Ocean to China. The most ambitious proposal would involve development of a 791km railway via the coastal towns of Uraba and Cupica, coupled with expansion of Buenaventura's port to accommodate freight exports of up to 40 million tons per year.[5]

In a 2011 interview, Domingo Chinea, general manager of the port society of Buenaventura, questioned the feasibility of such a scheme, noting that the port currently accommodates ships of only 40,000 tons (much smaller than the vessels typically used to haul coal internationally). Chinea also estimated that 80 train runs would be required to match the cargo-carrying capability of a single Panama Canal ship.[6] Observers have raised a host of other concerns, from the project's environmental impact to its vulnerability to rebel attacks the high cost of maintaining a railway through the notoriously swampy Darien Gap.[7]

Nonetheless, there have been sporadic indications that the Chinese railway plan may eventually go ahead. In October 2013, the Wall Street Journal quoted Colombia's Mines and Energy Minister Amylkar Acosta as saying, "Talks for a bilateral agreement with China have advanced at this stage, and probably soon some news will be released in this regard."[8] In January 2014, China’s ambassador to Colombia, Zhou Quan, confirmed that China was looking for Colombian partners to help move the railway project forward.[9]

Project Details

  • Operator: Sociedad Portuaria Regional de Buenaventura S.A.
  • Location: Cascajal Island, Colombia
  • Existing Capacity (Million tonnes per annum): 20 (including adjacent TCBUEN container port)[10]
  • Additional Proposed Capacity (Million tonnes per annum): 20
  • Status: Proposed expansion
  • Projected In Service:
  • Type: Exports
  • Source of Coal: Colombia
  • Cost of Expansion:
  • Financing for Expansion:

Articles and resources

References

  1. "Port of Sociedad Portuaria Regional de Buenaventura", World Port Source, accessed January 2015.
  2. "Consolidados de Toneladas por Tipo de Carga", Sociedad Portuaria Regional de Buenaventura website, accessed February 2018.
  3. "Terminales Especializados: Muelle 14", Sociedad Portuaria Regional de Buenaventura website, accessed February 2018.
  4. "Se inauguró Puerto de Aguadulce, uno de los más grandes y modernos del Pacífico", Sociedad Puerto Industrial Aguadulce press release, March 8, 2017.
  5. "China goes on the rails to rival Panama canal", The Guardian, February 14, 2011.
  6. "Is Colombian 'dry canal' plan for real?", Washington Post, March 10, 2011.
  7. "A Man, a Plan, a Canal – Colombia?: China Proposes an Atlantic-Pacific Railway ", Ergo Country Team Dispatches, August 2011.
  8. "Colombia, China Close In on Coal and Railway Deal", Wall Street Journal, October 17, 2013.
  9. "China still working out contract for coal train to Colombia’s Pacific coast: Ambassador", Colombia Reports, January 7, 2014.
  10. "Puertos de Buenaventura, listos para poner a andar la Alianza del Pacífico", El País, February 24, 2014.

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