The Business Year

René Fernando Puche

CEO, Puerto de Barranquilla Sociedad Portuaria

Domingo Chinea Barrera

President, Sociedad Portuaria Santa Marta

Investing in technology is just as important as investing in infrastructure to ensure Colombia's ports can compete with any port in the 21st century.

What is the importance of ports in transit integration in Colombia?
RENÉ FERNANDO PUCHE Transportation costs in Colombia are amongst the highest in Latin America. The main reasons are the excessive use of trucks to move cargo as well the fact that the main consumption and production hubs are located more than 1,000km away from the ports. Taking into consideration that most raw materials are imported, competitiveness will remain a challenge unless there is a structural challenge to encourage the use of the river and train to complement the use of trucks. In accordance with this strategy, our focus is the Magdalena River. Despite being Colombia’s longest, we have not been able to take advantage of it. In our terminal, we promote the use of the river to move cargo when we consider the tangible benefits it can provide our clients. This is how we went from doing only 25 operations on barges in 2018 to 80 in 2019.

DOMINGO CHINEA BARRERA 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. Indeed, the export sector has the potential to become the engine 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.

What are some of your port’s advantages?
RFP We have invested COP23.7 billion in digital innovation since 2015, focusing on electronic invoicing, IoT in mobile equipment to optimize maintenance management and operational efficiency, business intelligence, and business analytics to assess and predict business and market behavior, our META project, and the creation of our virtual assistant, MAGDA. Being only one of the links in the entire trade and logistics chain, it is fundamental that we go from developing technologies for internal use to developing ones that will allow our operations to connect and synchronize with other actors. That is why it is important for private, public, domestic, and international entities to collaborate through new technologies. When it comes to investing 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 also 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.

DCB Santa Marta has many competitive advantages due to its dry weather and low oxidation levels. We also 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. 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 the entire country. We must give opportunities to these companies to carry out their projects, such as offshore and oil and gas projects. As a port and a region, we have advanced significantly, though we need to keep working with companies that want to invest in the country and region. The agricultural sector has the potential to further generate employment and attract investment. In 2019, we saw a 4% increase mainly due to the rebound in container cargo revenues as well as an increase in our logistics platforms and value-added services. The industries that stand out in this growth are clinker, cement, glass, and perishables. Our exports will grow in the future as the currency stabilizes and we reach new trade agreements in the agricultural and energy sectors.



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