DREDGING FIASCO AT BARRANQUILLA

01 Dec 2004

After having spent approximately US$1.5m over eight years on studies to justify dredging to 40 feet the access channel at the port of Barranquilla, it now seems that the Colombian government is to restrict work to allow a draught of just 36 feet.

The growth is expected to continue over the next ten years as the port follows through on plans designed to secure future volumes. These include the purchase of 119 acres on the eastern end of the Port Jersey peninsula for the potential redevelopment of new cargo container space, the development of an ExpressRail on-dock rail system to be ready by 2011, and the port's $2bn, 10-year Capital Plan, which includes significant funds to upgrade the on and off-port road network.

This will have the effect of limiting the competitiveness of the port vis-a-vis that of national rivals. At Cartagena, the port is in the process of dredging to 45 feet while at Santa Marta there is a natural draught of 60 feet.

The decision has proven unpalatable to local interests given that the Netherlands was willing to provide US$8.8m of the overall US$25m cost of the project, which would have guaranteed a minimum draught of 40 feet; in this case, the government would only have had to find US$16.2m. The initial viability study had been a joint-venture between Colombia's Uninorte University and Royal Haskoning.

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