News 26 Mar, 2013

Colombia - Container Vessels Calling at TCBuen Terminal, Buenaventura

Colombia correspondents Marventura Services Limitada have advised the Club of a significant safety issue relating to the berthing of large container vessels at TCBuen terminal in Buenaventura (Sociedad Portuaria Terminal de Contenedores de Buenaventura).

TCBuen has been involved in a legal dispute with the Buenaventura Harbour Master regarding the maximum size of ship permitted to berth at the terminal. In the past, vessels with a length overall (LOA) of up to 296m have reportedly berthed at TCBuen. However, in July 2012 the terminal agreed to accept a vessel with an LOA of 300m. This prompted the Harbour Master to re-evaluate the risk of berthing large container vessels at TCBuen following which a maximum LOA restriction of 280m was introduced.

The Harbour Master’s decision was partially based on the findings of a study undertaken for TCBuen which recommended that the LOA of vessels berthing at the terminal should not exceed 280m. Although a later study advised that adding a further 50m to the existing 350m diameter turning basin off the berth would make it possible for vessels with an LOA of up to 318m to call at the terminal, the necessary dredging work has not yet been carried out.

TCBuen terminal subsequently challenged the Harbour Master’s decision in the Colombian courts. The courts ruled in favour of TCBuen and the judgement has since been upheld on appeal. The ruling therefore appears to afford greater priority to the commercial interests of the terminal rather than the safety concerns of the Harbour Master.

Regardless of the legal decision, Members considering a port call at TCBuen should bear in mind the following if the vessel’s LOA exceeds 280m, particularly in view of their obligation under the Rules to act as a prudent uninsured:

  • The limitations of the approach channel
  • The restricted turning area
  • The  possibility of strong tides
  • The fact that berthing difficulties have been reported by vessels under 280m LOA
  • The safety concerns expressed by the Buenaventura Harbour Master
  • The endorsement of such concerns by the Directorate General of the Maritime Authority (DIMAR) and the Colombian National Association of Maritime Pilots (ANPRA)
  • Reservations expressed by the International Maritime Pilots’ Association (IMPA)

The Managers are equally concerned by the current situation and are monitoring developments closely.

Members requiring further guidance are advised to contact the Loss Prevention department.