Thanks to expansion taking place in various ports, Colombia will be able to export a further 40mt (million tonnes) of coal by sea by the end of this year.

The main producers, based on 2013 figures, are Cerrejón (33mt), Drummond (23mt) and Prodeco (18.6mt). However, although initial projections for last year were for a total traffic of 97mt of coal, in the event, just 85.5mt were produced. This was down to social problems and those related to environmental issues.

Indeed, it was environmental issues that prompted the government to demand an end to the use of barge loading six years ago, replacing it with direct discharge into vessels. This helped the industry become significantly more internationally competitive.

Cerrejón has invested around $1.2 billion in both infrastructure and rail, which will allow it to handle 40mt of coal annually as of June. In the meantime, Drummond has also upgraded its port to double capacity to 60mt per annum. Prodeco, for its part, commenced direct loading in May 2013, which allowed it to boost exports by 26%. It estimates export volume will reach 21.5mt this year at the expanded Puerto Nuevo. Nevertheless, the company stresses that it suffers from inefficiency due to inadequate rail connectivity with the mines.

Barry Cross