Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Ports, and Logistics in Colombian Development

By: David Ricardo Murcia
Political Sciences student at Universidad EAFIT, Colombia

When one is willing to analyse and explore the topic of development, several areas of study comes to mind. Among them: chain value participation, market analysis, and state support to some productive sectors through public policy. These are subjects that have previously been studied in the different articles of this Observatory, but I am willing to undertake a new one –maybe a very important one- in this concise dissertation. No further introduction, I will explore the logistic infrastructure, more specifically, the port administration of Colombia, and its consequences in international trade.

All the firstly appointed subjects in the above paragraph concentrate in the production capacity of a certain State and its participation in the international market, and, as it has been the goal of most of previous posts, the revenue in it. Although, the consideration of the commercial logistics has a crucial influence in the competitiveness of a national market as it can change the value of a product according to the connectivity and storage capacity that the infrastructure can provide to possible investors (DNP, 2008). Nevertheless, that opens a wide range of problems that cannot be discussed in this brief writing, such as the variety of intervention levels that the National Logistic Policy of Colombia contain (Vid. BID, 2011). Now, this text will focus on a specific area of the preceding policy: the port administration.

Colombia has a long history of reforms attempting to make its ports more competitive in the Latin American region. This was especially evident since the promulgation of the 1991 1st law that liberalised the sector, by permitting private capital to administrate the national infrastructure through concession. Before the remarked law, the Colombian ports were managed by the State, and had little competitiveness in the international market. But this was not a huge problem, as the Colombian market was a highly close by that time, even though the nation started a slow opening process since de 1950’s (Vid. Estrada, 2004).

The liberalization process of the Colombian State concentrated their efforts in attracting foreign direct investment, by making a lax legal control on inversion. Those arrangements set aside the preoccupation over logistics, and consequently national plans did not have significant budget to come into reality. An example of this situation is the constant desire to build a train transport system, which came especially since the presidency of Carlos Lleras Restrepo (1966 – 1970).

Although, since 1991 with a new constitution and a package of laws, the government made bigger efforts to increase its participation in international markets. The problem began after the first five years of the 2000’s that brought a rapid growth in the nation’s foreign trade, due to the poor effects that the 1rst law of 1991 for improving the efficiency of the port sector had (DNP, 2009; DNP, 2013). Then, the ports problems started being taken as important issues, mainly with the port expansion plans of 2009 and 2013 (Conpes 3611 of 2009 and 3744 of 2013). But unfortunately, the impact capacities of the 2009 plan were reduced because the importance that arose in 2005 benefited only the traditional ports, and left the strategic ones with nothing more than a bunch of plans in paper with no funding, as it is the case of de Urabá or the Morrosquillo Gulf ports in the West Caribbean Coast of Colombia or the Tribugá port in the Northern Pacific Coast.

As a conclusion, the previous dissertation developed a discussion over the repercussions that logistics have in the country capacities of improving its participation in a global market. More importantly, it is presented the lack of preoccupation that the government has put in the port sector and the collateral consequences that they have in the costs of trade.


BID. (2011). BID apoya Política Nacional Logística de Colombia. BID. Available at:,9445.html

DNP. (2008). Conpes 3547. Bogotá: DNP.

DNP. (2009). Documento CONPES 3611. Bogotá: DNP.

DNP. (2013). Documento CONPES 3744. Bogotá: DNP.

Estrada Álvarez, J. (2004). Construcción del modelo neoliberal en Colombia 1970-2004. Bogotá: Ediciones Aurora.

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