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Cartagena continues in growth mode

Cartagena continues in growth mode, sets new record 

The Port of Cartagena has announced strong growth figures for 2011 and the setting of a new annual production record. 

The port has been recording double-digit growth figures for five consecutive years. A total throughput of 1,853,342 teu in its three terminals (Manga, Contecar and El Bosque) was achieved for the year just ended, up 17.02 per cent as compared with 2010 when the leading Colombian port handled 1,581,401 teu.

Cartagena’s growth is mainly related to the strengthening of Colombia’s national economy as well as increased volumes in transhipment operations. This performance has made the South American port one of the most dynamic hubs of the region.

The port expects even further growth in the years to come as the country is actively involved in establishing new free trade agreements with the USA, countries in Europe, Turkey and South Korea.

In order to prepare for the larger ships expected to serve the region once the Panama Canal expansion is completed, the Port of Cartagena has prioritised three aspects of its operations: (a) infrastructure; (b) people; (c) technology and equipment. The strategy involves:

• Implementation of an expansion plan, in phases, which will bring a combined capacity of 5 million teu into two main terminals (Contecar and Manga);

• Construction of a new access channel (18.0 metres draught);

• Plans to operate 22 STS gantry cranes over 1,700 metres of quay wall for vessels of up to 14,000 teu capacity;

• Focus on the needs of the workforce; hiring of motivated employees and constantly preparing and training workers for the new challenges ahead;

• Updating technology and challenging systems and methods in order to ensure a reliable service.

The Port of Cartagena sees its greatest challenge as coping with ever-growing volumes of cargo in Colombia, the result of the tremendous economic growth that the country is experiencing at present.

“We, as a country, need to develop the internal infrastructure in order to optimise the new challenges and opportunities that Free Trade Agreements as well as the Panama Canal expansion will bring,” the port declared in a recent statement. “We need to understand the market, in these troubled times, and invest in a timely matter for all the opportunities that are out there.”

Perhaps the greatest challenge is that Colombia is rapidly becoming a trade hub without having really planned it.

“We continue in many ways with an Andean mentality,” said one official. “It is costing us a lot to develop infrastructure in the coastal cities for all the new industrial developments moving from the highlands to the coasts that will end up boosting trade.”

Many times winner of the CSA’s Caribbean Port Awards, the Port of Cartagena, with its three efficient terminals, has proven it has the capability and the leadership to deal effectively with growth and expansion.