Puerto Bolivar coal export terminal

From Global Energy Monitor

The Puerto Bolivar coal export terminal is a private terminal in La Guajira department on Colombia's Caribbean coast, owned by Colombia's largest coal exporter, the Cerrejon Coal Company (Carbones del Cerrejón), which in turn is owned by subsidiaries of BHP Billiton, Anglo American and Xstrata. Cerrejon Coal also operates the Cerrejon coal mine in northern Colombia, the largest coal mine in the country.

The Puerto Bolivar terminal, which has utilized covered conveyor belts and a direct-loading system since 1985[1], added a new pier and dual shiploader in 2014, bringing its annual export capacity up to 40 million tonnes.[2]


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Project Details

  • Operator: Cerrejon Coal Company (Carbones del Cerrejón)
  • Annual Capacity (Tonnes): 40 million
  • Status: Existing
  • Type: Exports
  • Coal Source: Cerrejon coal mine


Puerto Bolivar handles all coal exported from Colombia's Cerrejón mine.[3] Coal is transported from the mine to Puerto Bolivar via a 150km private, standard-gauge railway owned by the Cerrejon Coal Company's sister company CMC (Coal Marketing Company, Ltd).[4] Two 120-car trains make an average of four daily runs between the mine and the port, transporting 48,000 metric tons of crushed coal per day. Upon arrival at Puerto Bolivar, coal gets loaded onto stockpiles or moved to the 10,000 ton-per-hour shiploaders at the port's loading pier, which can handle vessels up to 150,000 dwt (dead weight tonnage).[5] Roughly half of the coal passing through Puerto Bolivar is exported to Europe, with another 25% destined for the Americas.[6]

In 2013, Coal Age magazine reported that "The coal port is located on the western shore near the entrance to Bahia Portete (Portete Bay). It can receive ships of up to 984-ft long and 147-ft beam, and can load to a maximum draft of 55 ft and maximum air draft of 69 ft. It can handle Capesize vessels. Port operator and miner Carbones del Cerrejon has taken steps to increase annual production tonnage, and to increase port capacity to handle the additional tonnage. In May 2012, Cerrejon contracted with Ferrovial of Spain and Sainc of Colombia to build a second terminal. Costing about $39.2 million, the second terminal will enable Cerrejon to increase annual tonnage from 32 million tons to 40 million tons. The entire project, including mine expansion, is expected to cost $1.31 billion."[7]

In February/March 2013, a 32-day strike at the Cerrejón mine significantly disrupted coal shipments from Puerto Bolivar, resulting in 10 canceled shipments totaling 900,000 tons within the first week[8] and an estimated loss of 3 million tons in output during the course of the strike.[9].

In September 2014, Cerrejon Coal Company announced completion of its P40 expansion project for Puerto Bolivar, which increases the port's capacity from 32 to 40 million tons per annum with the deployment of a new pier and a state-of-the-art dual shiploader. Puerto Bolivar loaded its first coal shipment of 20,000 tons using the new equipment in late August 2014[2], and the revamped facilities were officially inaugurated in late December 2014 by Colombia's president Juan Manuel Santos Calderón.[10]

Despite completion of the 8 mtpa expansion in late 2014, exports from the Cerrejon thermal coal mine in Colombia fell in 2015: the company exported 33.4 million tonnes in 2015, 2 per cent less than in 2014.[11][12]

In 2016 and 2017, exports fell further, to 32.07 and 31.7 million tonnes, respectively[13][14], with 2018 export estimates in the 30 to 34 million tonne range.[15]

Pollution from operations at the Puerto Bolivar terminal continues to be a concern for local communities. In August 2016, the regional government authority Corpoguajira ordered a temporary suspension of operations at Puerto Bolivar pending cleanup of coal dust contamination affecting the indigenous communities of Malla Norte, Media Luna and Lechemana.[16] In March 2017, Colombia's Constitutional Court upheld an injunction filed by the community of Media Luna Dos calling for a re-examination of Puerto Bolivar's environmental management plan. The court's ruling orders Colombia's Ministry of the Interior, the environmental regulatory authority ANLA, and the Cerrejón Coal Company to analyze the coal terminal's health impacts on surrounding communities and, if necessary, calls for a modification, suspension, or cancellation of Puerto Bolivar's environmental license.[17][18][19]

Labor issues have also continued to affect the Puerto Bolivar terminal. In 2016, workers threatened to strike but ultimately backed down, citing unfavorably low coal prices that weakened their bargaining position. In January 2018, following a fatal landslide that killed a Puerto Bolivar employee[15], workers again threatened to strike if their demands for higher pay and safer working conditions weren't met, noting that 2017 and 2018 coal prices were substantially higher than the 2016 prices in effect at the time the previous contract was negotiated.[14]

In 2019, Newcastlemax's vessel Lydia Oldendorff set the record for largest vessel to load coal at Puerto Bolivar destined for the Netherlands.[20] As of 2019, the port was exporting more than 30 million tonnes annually.[20]

During 2021, Puerto Bolivar was contending with shutdowns due to railway blockades of the route connecting the port to the coal mine.[21][22]

Export destinations

In 2012 nearly half of all coal exported from Puerto Bolivar went to EU-27 countries, Turkey nearly a quarter,[23] and the rest to the U.S. and to Central and South America.[24]

Expansion costs and financing

BHP Billiton, Glencore and Anglo American agreed to chip in US$437 million each to expand the Cerrejon coal mine and add the extra loading berth in 2014 at the Puerto Bolivar port. In March 2015, Cerrejón Coal Company CEO Roberto Junguito told Bloomberg News that the joint venture might export only about 34 million tons of coal in 2015, due to declining coal prices and demand.[24]

Articles and resources


  1. "Cerrejón", Wikipedia, accessed January 2015.
  2. 2.0 2.1 "Cerrejón Loads First 20,000 Tonnes of Coal from New Pier at Puerto Bolivar", Cerrejon Coal Company media release, September 2, 2014.
  3. BHP Billiton, "Cerrejon Coal Company", BHP Billiton website, accessed June 2010.
  4. "Accountability: Our integrated coal handling infrastructure – mine-rail-port", CMC website, accessed January 2015.
  5. "Carbones del Cerrejón, Colombia", Mining Technology website, accessed January 2015.
  6. "Colombia Coal Strike Halts 900,000 Tons of Shipments", Bloomberg, February 19, 2013.
  7. "Colombian Coal Prepares for Canal Expansion", Coal Age, November 22, 2013.
  8. "Atlantic Coal-Ship Rates Touch 2013 Low on Colombia Mine Strike", Bloomberg, February 22, 2013.
  9. "BHP’s Cerrejon Mine Restarts Coal Exports After Strike Ends", Bloomberg, March 13, 2013.
  10. "Cerrejón invierte USD1.100 millones en nuevo muelle", El Heraldo, December 21, 2014.
  11. Bob Burton, "Did BHP & friends just blow $1.3bn on a Colombian coal project?" RenewEconomy, June 10, 2015
  12. "Cerrejon's Colombia coal output down 1.48 percent in 2015," Reuters, Jan 15, 2016
  13. "Colombian thermal coal exports rise 9% in 2016 to record 88 mil mt" Platts, Jan 17, 2017
  14. 14.0 14.1 "En marcha votación de huelga en El Cerrejón," Agencia de Información Laboral, Jan 22, 2018
  15. 15.0 15.1 "Strike threatens Colombia’s Puerto Bolivar," Fairplay, Jan 31, 2018
  16. "Suspenden actividades de Cerrejón en Puerto Bolívar por emisión de polvillo de carbón," Zona Cero, Aug 27, 2016
  17. "Corte ordena revisar impacto ambiental por explotación de carbón por El Cerrejón en La Guajira," El Espectador, Mar 1, 2017
  18. "Corte ordena revisar impacto de El Cerrejón en comunidades indígenas," El Heraldo, Mar 1, 2017
  19. "Por falta de consulta frenan proyecto de expansión 'El Cerrejón' en la Guajira," El Universal, Mar 2, 2017
  20. 20.0 20.1 "Oldendorff Bulk Carrier Sets Coal Record". The Maritime Executive. Retrieved 2021-07-23.
  21. "News: Colombian National Strike". Standard Club. Retrieved 2021-07-23.
  22. "Colombian rail blockade halts all Cerrejon coal shipments | Montel". Montel. Retrieved 2021-07-23.
  23. "EU, Turkey gobble up most of Colombian Puerto Bolivar’s 2012 coal exports," ICIS, 26 February 2013
  24. 24.0 24.1 Bob Burton, "Have Three of the World’s Biggest Coal Exporters Just Blown $1.3 Billion on a Stranded Asset?" IEEFA, June 11, 2015

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