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Latin America

Puerto Bahía: Helvetia insures an entire port

Over the last three years, one of the most modern port terminals for international shipping transport has emerged off the Columbian coast. A prestigious project for South America, and for the leading reinsurance company Helvetia Latin America.

11th May 2016, Text: Jan Söntgerath, Photos: Puerto Bahía

The port of Puerto Bahía from a bird's eye view.
The port complex Puerto Bahía covers an area of 155 hectares – equivalent to the size of 200 football fields.

The completion of the port signifies a milestone for Columbia. The location, with direct access to the southern Pacific Ocean and the Panama Canal, ensures links to important international transport routes for the import and export of crude oil and promotes competitiveness of Colombia, South America’s third largest country. A very prestigious project for all involved, including the insurers.

A full-time job

Local insurers underwrote the all-risk insurance for the building site, as well as the builders' and business interruption insurance with a contract volume of more than USD 400 million. Helvetia Latin America reinsured more than a third of these risks. Ricardo Garcia López, director of Helvetia Latin America advised the builders Sociedad Portuaria Puerto Bahía together with his five-man team in Miami and headed up the negotiations with all involved parties and the investors. "Two of us were almost exclusively involved in this project", says Ricardo Garcia López. Since construction began in October 2012, his team’s experts have checked the on-site risk level four times.

Forceps delivery

At times, the entire project was on the razor’s edge. Extremely tough negotiations with the investors were needed to conclude the contract. They demanded a one hundred percent capital protection, a risk which Helvetia was not prepared to take on. "These negotiations took a lot of time and got on one's nerves", Ricardo Garcia López remembers. The contract parties only signed the final version of the policy five months later than planned, and under huge time pressure. "Thanks to our perseverance and willingness to compromise, we were finally able to successfully conclude the contract ", says Ricardo Garcia López proudly. To get to this point, however, no fewer than 22 amendments to the original declaration of coverage had to be made.

Thankfully, no claims

Part of the project originally involved the construction of a 130-kilometre-long pipeline that was supposed to connect the harbour with export terminals and a large inland refinery. However, the start of construction was repeatedly delayed over the course of a year and a half. Initially, this was due to the investors’ disagreement over the insurance policy and later because of unstable oil prices. In 2015, the initiators of this part of the project finally withdrew completely. As for Puerto Bahía, the initially planned construction time of just under two and a half years was exceeded by more than one year. Since March 2016, however, the port terminal is now in full operation. And the great thing is that the entire construction period was claim-free! A relief for the Helvetia Team in Miami, who can now focus on other no less prestigious projects.

Puerto Bahía

The highly ­modern port complex Puerto Bahía lies on the island of Barù in the naturally protected bay of Cartagena, one of the largest commercial centres in Latin ­America. It covers an area of 155 hectares – equivalent to the size of 200 football fields. The infrastructure for fuelling, storing and handling of crude oil and petroleum is integrated into the complex. The build offers storage capacities for 3.3 million barrels, which corresponds to around one tenth of the daily oil output quantity set by OPEC.

Learn more about Helvetia Latin America

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