Dredging has begun on Columbia’s Magdalena River near Barrancabermeja as part of a $600 million, six-year project to reopen what had been the country’s primary transport, a 560 mile waterway from the Caribbean to Puerto Salgar near Bogota.
The government predicts a fivefold increase in annual river transport to 10 million tonnes by 2029, replacing decades of costly, inefficient and often dangerous transport.
Currently, only small barges navigate as far as Barrancabermeja, 155 miles from Puerto Salgar. From there, shippers rely on congested and badly maintained roads. Six days are needed to transport freight just the 405 miles by river from Barranquilla to Barrancabermeja for transhipment to trucks. The completed project would reduce the total trip to six days total.
Navelena Consortium, 87 percent owned by Brazilian infrastructure company, Odebrecht, will carry out the project and fund most of it to be repaid from toll charges during the first seven years of operation.