5 Major Ports in Colombia

The transcontinental country of Colombia covers South America and a small portion of North America. Bordered by the Caribbean sea and the Pacific Ocean on its northern and western coastline, Colombia has many 5 major ports and around 15 river ports.

The nation is rich in natural resources and has a prosperous agricultural and manufacturing sector. Free trade agreements with developed nations have allowed it to diversify its foreign trade and earn handsome foreign exchange revenue.

The government has invested significantly in expanding port facilities and infrastructural development for attracting businesses and foreign direct investment. Tourism has also boosted economic growth by generating employment opportunities.

Colombia has major trade relations with the United States, China, European Union and a few nations in Latin America.

1. Port of Barranquilla

Barranquilla port is situated on Colombia’s Caribbean coastline just 10 nautical miles on the western shore of the Magdalena River and serves the industries of the region. A significant port, it has numerous wharves and designated terminals such as Monomeros, Gracetales, Vopak, SP Del Norte and Port Magdalena facilities that handle 3,327,500 tonnes of cargo, 99,000 TEU and more than 1000 ships annually.

Operated and managed by the Harbour Society of the North SA, it is the largest Caribbean seaport that accommodates containerised goods, breakbulk, liquid bulk, and dry cargo such as sugar, wood, textiles, synthetic fibres, steel and pharmaceutical items which comprise the majority of exports. Major imports include rolled wires, steel, grains, chemicals, project cargo, scrap metal, tuna, foodstuff, automobiles etc.

It has witnessed reduced maritime traffic since the late 90s due to the establishment of the Buenaventura port on the pacific coastline but it still deals with the majority of coffee and petroleum products from the country’s interiors. It is also connected to the natural gas pipelines of northern Colombia.

Port of Barranquilla
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The first port to be built in Colombia also known as Columbia’s golden gate, the port town is home to South America’s first international airport and one of the oldest operational airlines in the world, the Avianca. Connected with railways and roads, it has become one of the favourite tourist destinations in the last two decades.

Barranquilla port has a 9 m deep navigation channel that requires regular dredging. It has 2 general cargo berths covering 1060 m, 2 container berths and 2 silo berths with depths of 8.5 m that can accommodate ships weighing more than 50,000 DWT.

Maritime terminal

Situated on the west bank, the maritime terminal counts among the biggest Multipurpose terminals in South America operating through a 1000 m long wharf decked with the latest technologies and equipment for container handling.

It has 12 warehouses linked to a mechanised grain elevator system, 133,000 million tonnes of storage capacity, 77,000 tonnes of additional storage area for grains outside the port premises and a cold storage facility covering 3200 m2. With a discharge rate of 8200 tonnes per day, the port handled 1.7 million tonnes of grains in 2017. It also has a container yard covering 12 hectares capable of handling 6,070 TEUs and 186 reefer connections.

BITCO Container terminal

This facility has two wharves with a total quay length of 400 m, a northern dock covering 160 m with a depth of 12 m and a 130 m southern wharf. Unloading activities are carried out using mobile cranes and gantries. The terminal also has a container stacking yard measuring 38,000 m2 with a capacity of accommodating 2900 TEUs and three warehouses spanning 2000 m2.

The multipurpose terminal operated by COREMAR has four wharves located on the eastern bank near the Palermo area.

2. Port of Buenaventura

The Buenaventura port lies in the southwestern part of the Republic of Colombia facing the Pacific Ocean. It is the country’s primary port in the Pacific because it handles a significant amount of its international maritime commerce given its strategic position amidst major global shipping routes. Buenaventura is also one of South America’s biggest ports with direct links to the markets of Southeast and East Asia.

This port ships coffee and sugar from the Cauca river valleys, wood from southwestern coastal forests of Columbia, and precious metals like gold and platinum mined in the northern regions. It is linked to the Puerto Berrio refinery through a major oil pipeline that transports it to the port’s storage tanks at the liquid bulk terminal from where it is shipped to Europe, Asia and neighbouring countries.

Port of Buenaventura
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Lying on the Cascajal island near the Dagua river, the port engages in international as well inland trade of bulk goods, general cargo and containers through its 14 wharves covering 2100 m, designed especially for meeting the operational requirements. 12 docks are operated by the Port Society while 2 are managed by private players.

Sugar, fertilisers, automobiles, liquid chemicals and petroleum products are the dominant commodities handled at the facility which can accommodate ships with a maximum LOA of 210 m and a draught of 10 m. Approximately 1200 ships, 8,550,000 tonnes of cargo including 706,500 TEU are handled at the port every year.

Multipurpose terminal

This terminal is operated by SPB, the port authority and incorporates a container berth measuring 1000 m equipped with 7 gantry cranes, reach stackers, post-Panamax ship-to-shore cranes, 3 multipurpose cranes with forklifts. It also has a dock for handling bulk solids such as carbon and a coal storage area covering 4700 m2 for keeping 17,000 tonnes of coal. More than 173,00 tonnes of solid bulk can be stored in the terminal’s 8 silo tanks and covered warehouses. The company OPP Graneles S.A operates an 8600 m2 warehouse for keeping coffee and another for keeping sugar covering 20,000 m2.

Liquid Bulk Terminal

This terminal is equipped with 14 pipelines for transferring fuels, petroleum, LNG etc and the latest fire extinguishing system. It has a storage capacity of over 245,000 m3 in its 9 tanks.

Aguadulce Terminal
This terminal lies near the Buenaventura bay in the Agalduce peninsula and comprises a 250 m long wharf for dealing with shipments of bulk goods and containers. It has 6 warehouses with a storage capacity of 50,000 million tonnes and 2 eco-warehouses for storing 5000 million tonnes.

Dry Bulk Terminal

This facility is operated by COMPAS Group and can receive ships weighing up to 100,000 DWT. The port has automated systems for exporting coal, a grain elevator, 3 mobile cranes, 5 vertical silos with a capacity of 7000 tonnes each and 4 warehouses covering 6000m2 with a total storage capacity of 25,250 tonnes.

Container Terminals
The port has two main container handling facilities. The one operated by ICTSI and PSA has a 1200 m long wharf with an alongside depth of 14 m during low tide, a 9500 m2 paved container storage area and a container freight station with 170 reefer connections. The TCBUEN terminal is operated by APM and comprises a 450 m dock dredged to 13 m with a 111,000 sq m of container yard and 8 warehouses. It is located in the eastern port area and is connected to major cities via roadways.

3. Port of Santa Marta

The Santa Marta port lies on the Caribbean coast just 50 nautical miles from Barranquilla. It is a major commercial facility having an inner harbour and 7 cargo berths measuring 1200 m, for handling mainly grain imports. It ships coal, fruits, refined oil, containers, coffee, bulk liquids etc. Santa Marta is the third biggest port in Columbia in terms of the volume of cargo handled and is visited by around 1000 ships carrying 3,320,000 tonnes of cargo every year.

Port of Santa Marta
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The port can accommodate Panamax size vessels with an LOA of 230 m and a draught of 12 m. It is equipped with modern port operating systems and fully-functional port equipment. The container terminal has two post-Panamax cranes and transtainers. It is currently functioning at 60% capacity and is connected to the hinterland via roadways and railways. It offers numerous services such as container cleaning and repairs. The port also receives humanitarian cargo destined for some of the poor countries of the region.

The storage area covers 9 hectares including 5 warehouses and two administrative offices. It also has cold storage facilities and 580 reefer connections. Around 100,000 tonnes of grain can be kept in the storage space. 3 silos are linked with a mechanised grain elevator and a suction system that can handle 400 to 600 tonnes per hour.

4. Port of Cartagena

Located on Cartagena bay on the Caribbean coast, Cartagena port is the biggest and safest harbour on Columbia’s northern coast as it is well-protected from all directions. The port’s geographical position near the major transoceanic routes going through the Panama canal allows it to function as an important transhipment hub.

It comprises an inner port area lying around the city, north of Punta Manzanillo and Castillo Grande. The commercial port has many terminals divided into the eastern and northern port areas. In the south is the outer harbour which houses the container terminal, the coal berth and numerous oil jetties.

Port of Cartagena
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The port is known for exports of ground coffee, oil, fuels, automobiles, fruits and vegetables, nickel, textiles and resin. Main imports unloaded at the facility include chemicals, packaged food, machinery, paper and construction equipment.

About 1400 ships, 7,116,688 tonnes of cargo and 795,381 TEU are handled annually at the Cartagena port which can accommodate even post-Panamax container ships with an LOA of 270 m and a draught of 13 m.

The Contecar and Manga container terminals handled 3 million tonnes of transhipment cargo in 2017. They have an annual capacity of more than 250,000 TEU and 1.5 million tonnes of conventional cargo.

5. Port of Tumaco

Tumaco port lies on Colombia’s Pacific coast in the bay of Tumaco, a few miles from Ecuador and the Panama canal. It has many berths for handling general cargo and dry bulk along with an offshore terminal facility that handles the majority of the country’s crude oil exports. Well-linked to the major cities of Columbia, such as Bogota and Cali, by roadways and railways, it is a major distribution centre as well. More than 450 ships frequent the port annually.

Port of Tumaco
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A major export commodity is the bananas grown in the low-lying regions of the pacific. However, it mostly ships crude oil derived from the Putumayo oilfields, lying 170 km from the port. It also serves the region’s fishing industry by exporting tuna and sardines and is also an important timber exporting facility.

The port’s Tumaco terminal lies in the narrow channel amidst Isla del Morro and the mainland. It handles container goods and general cargo and can accommodate the biggest carriers weighing over 100,000 DWT with an LOA of 270 m.

Ports of Colombia Map

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