THIS REPORT CONTAINS ASSESSMENTS OF COMMODITY AND TRADE ISSUES MADE BY
USDA STAFF AND NOT NECESSARILY STATEMENTS OF OFFICIAL U.S. GOVERNMENT
GAIN Report Number:
Port of Buenaventura Not Prepared for US-Colombia FTA
Trade Policy Incident Report
Elizabeth Mello, Agricultural Attaché
Juan Sebastian Diaz, Agricultural Specialist
The Port of Buenaventura is Colombia’s largest Port. The entry into force of the FTA agreement with
the US on May 15 requires that the port increase its productivity and efficiency, and it is unclear if the
port’s infrastructure will be able to handle the demand that will be upon them in the coming days. The
port’s administration and the Colombian Government will need to address how they will get the port up
to speed, or Colombia’s Atlantic ports will take a larger share of the country’s trade.
The port of Buenaventura receives approximately 65% of imported agricultural goods in Colombia. The
Port has four port operators that have been granted concessions by the government for 20 years: The
Regional Port Authority of Buenaventura (SPRBUN), Associated Cement Port Association (CEMAS),
Pier Group Port 13, and the Container Terminal (TC/Buen).
Buenaventura’s port has shown progress under its private sector administration. The port has
modernized its systems and has improved the efficiency level reducing timeouts. However, although the
administration was delegated to private companies, Colombian authorities’ intervention is necessary in
areas that require improvement such as infrastructure and port equipment.
Storage capacity for commodities in bulk is around 342,000 MT including a new compound of 40,000
MT built by OPP Graneles which will be finished by the end of September 2012.
COMPANY Storage Capability (MT)
OPP GRANELES 180,000
GRUPO PORTUARIO (Muelle 13) 30,000
Buenaventura’s efficiency is low compared with other ports in Latin America. For instance, in
Veracruz, Mexico and Puerto Quetzal in Guatemala the rate of daily discharge is 12,000 MT per day,
whereas Colombian ports on average is 5,000 MT per day.
Port operations at Buenaventura are supported by the following Colombian authorities: Direction of
Taxes and Customs- DIAN, Agricultural and Livestock Institute- ICA, National Institute for Drug and
Food Control – INVIMA and the Fiscal and Customs Police. The agencies do not perform simultaneous
inspections, causing an increase in delays. Minimum delays due to inspections are considered 15 hours
between the examination request and the earliest the examination conducted. In addition, Colombian
authorities usually cancel their activities during rainy day, which also increases delays. This situation is
common at Buenaventura’s port taking into consideration that Buenaventura has a total precipitation
above 7,600 millimeters (300 inches) per year.
The FTA is an opportunity for the port authorities to improve. They are planning to include a single
electronic window where the importer enters the data to an electronic platform, and this one distributes
the information to the specific authorities. This system will eliminate the need to make multiple trips to
submit documents at the port authorities’ office and reduce payment of service fees at banks.
Dredging of the Channel
Buenaventura’s access channel depth limits the entry of a significant number of large vessels to the port;
this situation affects directly the economies of scale for importers and the logistics at port. The port has
signed a contract to realize an advance maintenance dredging to 13.5 m depth in the external channel,
and a maintenance dredging to 12.5 meters depth in the internal channel (see figure 1). However, the
dredging is not enough for the post Panamax vessels that will require a depth between 15 and 16 meters,
once the Panama Channel expands its locks in 2015.
Figure 1. Map of the dredging activities at Buenaventura’s port (Regional Port Authority of
The main constraint for the flow of goods is the port’s access. Currently there is only one road to the
port which is in poor condition. This situation has increased transportation time and costs to Bogota,
Cali and Medellin. During rainy season the road is affected with mudslides at various points on the
highway, increasing delays and causing freight costs to almost three times ocean freight costs.
The Colombian Government allocated $780 million for the first section of the road between
Buenaventura and Buga (see map). Unfortunately, environmental licenses are still unapproved by the
Ministry of Environment affecting the continuity of the construction.