The Business Year

Domingo Chinea Barrera

COLOMBIA - Transport

1st Trimester: 37 Million Tons of Products

President, Sociedad Portuaria Santa Marta


Domingo Chinea Barrera is President of Sociedad Portuaria Santa Marta.

“Aside from traditional exports such as bananas, carbon, and palm oil, there are other newer ones such as flowers, avocados, and cape gooseberries.“

In the first trimester of 2019, around 37 million tons of products moved through all the ports in the Caribbean region. Can you tell us about the size and importance of the port of Santa Marta in this context?

We are a multipurpose port; we operate containers, general loads, solid bulks, carbon, and liquid bulk. We are mainly an exporting port with exports comprising 64% of our activity. Our main export items are bananas, cape gooseberries, liquid loads such as palm oil, and carbon. We import cereals, general loads, and containers. We also offer specialized docking. We are one of the main public ports and the only Colombian multipurpose port that exports. We are the go-to port for Colombia’s agribusiness sector.

Aside from agriculture, what other industries are starting to export more from the port of Santa Marta?

The export sector has the potential to become the motor of the Colombian economy. Aside from traditional exports such as bananas, carbon, and palm oil, there are other newer ones such as flowers, avocados, and cape gooseberries. Our main objective as a port is to be the agribusiness port, meaning we focus on partnering with the agriculture sector. As a country, we mostly import raw materials to manufacture products for local use. Colombia needs to focus on export-led growth in the future.

The La Dorada-Santa Marta railroad passage was recently inaugurated. What role did the port of Santa Marta play in this, and how important will this route be?

We have to thank the government for this effort to reactivate the railway. It is impossible to have competitive and efficient ports if the land transport networks continue to face issues. The railway has always complemented road transit, and we need to continue thinking of other alternatives to stop depending so much on road transportation. The growth of the country will depend a great deal on the growth of terrestrial transport. There should be great logistical developments that connect the ports with the great production and consumption areas like Bogotá, the coffee triangle, Medellí­n, and Barranquilla. At present, it takes about a week to get imports to their final destination; this process needs to be improved.

What are the natural advantages of the port, and what is its growth potential?

Santa Marta has many competitive advantages due to dry weather and low oxidation levels. We have many geographical advantages but we need to improve and work to further develop them. For example, we need to dredge to get all docks to 16.5m of draft.

What are some of the prominent multinationals that work with the port? How important is it to increase their presence in the city?

We work with Dole, Chiquita, Banasan, Uniban, and Daabon. We also export a great deal of mining products. The mining sector is important not only for the region, but also the country. We must give opportunities to these companies to carry out their projects, such as offshore projects and oil and gas projects. We need to continue giving guarantees. As a port and region, we have advanced significantly, though we need to keep working with companies that want to invest in the country and region. In that sense, the agriculture sector has the potential to further generate employment and attract investment.

Can you give us examples of how you have invested in technology?

We are working on getting all the information of the port to be electronically received, managed, and transmitted. We receive all documents via EDI for example. We invest in software, hardware, and human talent. The navy lines that come here also go to Europe and the US, and they have to receive the same services they receive anywhere in the world. Therefore, we have to provide them with the same standard of service as developed countries. We also do free non-intrusive scanning inspection of all exports, whereas other ports charge around USD200-300. That differentiates us from others and also makes us a very secure port.

What are your goals for 2020?

We face some challenges when it comes to investing in equipment, training, and working with exporters. We need to work with the mayor’s office, the governor’s office, the national government, DIAN, ICA, INVIMA, and the anti-narcotic police departments in order to realize the ports full potential. The pending issue is that we need to work on a terminal for cruise ships because we currently do not have one. Moreover, as the oldest city in Latin America, Santa Maria has great tourism potential that is not being tapped. Moreover, the city needs an international airport. The private and public sectors face different challenges but they need to work together to overcome them.



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