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Finding the Right Mix – A Latin American Port’s Perspective

Located on Colombia’s Caribbean coast, the Port of Cartagena has grown substantially by developing relationships and earning expertise as a major transshipment hub.

By Tom Hranac— 

As container trade volumes and ship sizes have grown, so too has the importance of transshipment hubs in container shipping networks, including those in Latin America. But it takes much more than location or infrastructure to become a major transshipment hub – as the Port of Cartagena can attest. With navigation depths of almost 68 feet and tidal variations of less than 16 inches, the Port of Cartagena has numbers that support the movement of larger container ships, but it has taken much more than that for the port to capitalize on these natural assets and make it the major transshipment hub it is today.

Located on Colombia’s Caribbean coast just outside the hurricane belt 265 nautical miles away from the Panama Canal, the Port of Cartagena has been a commercial gateway for more than 500 years. The port also sits on a natural harbor seemingly tailored to handle large ships. But, when the Sociedad Portuaria Regional de Cartagena was created in 1993 to administer port activities, transshipment of containers was not a business line. The port knew, however, that an opportunity existed in the growing transshipment trade.

The port began negotiating with two Italian carriers in 1997 to bring transshipment operations to Cartagena and gained important visibility as an option for global shipping lines. Now, transshipment of containers is the port’s main business line and accounts for more than 70 percent of all containerized cargo moved through it. 

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