The development of Coronel Container Terminal



Diego Seljak & Bart Winder, RMG Consult BV, Rotterdam, The Netherlands


The Port of Coronel has been in operation since 1996 as an export port for break-bulk forest products. It is situated in the Coronel Bay, about 30 km south of  Concepción, at the Gulf of Arauco, which is about 400 km south of the capital Santiago de Chile in Chile.

In 1995, the sandy natural beach in Coronel was converted into a real export port with the construction of the first jetty and cargo warehouses. The existing shacks and community living on the beach were relocated to a completely new neighbourhood in Coronel with all facilities, such as water and electricity financed by the new port.


Coronel Port, owned by Chile’s largest forest products company Celulosa Arauco y Constitucion (Celco), Ultramar, Empresa Constructora Belfi and Fundo de  Inversiones CMB Infrastructura, grew rapidly, and the existing two berth jetty was expanded to four berths in 2004, while the total throughput reached up to 2.5 million tonnes. In addition to the jetty expansion, additional warehouses and railway tracks were constructed, and the port reached its existing configuration as of 2008.

The total beach area along the coastline of the bay was paved for open storage, which includes nine covered warehouses (101,000 m2) for the storage of wood and cellulose. The port area amounted to 34 ha; the first jetty had four berths, about 400 m in length, with a width of 41.5 m and a water depth up to 13.5 m.

The community of Coronel city was often involved in the activities of the port. Aside from providing employment for a variety of inhabitants of Coronel, it also supported ample social activities in the city. Educational support to schools and to other institutes was quite common, and yearly festivals were organised to involve the  community in the activities of the port.

Birth of the container terminal

Post year 2000, the port of Coronel began noticing a gradual change in the export market. The container market was growing faster than breakbulk export, such as wood and cellulose. In 2007, plans were made to benefit this growing container market by adding a modern container terminal.

However, this was easier said than done. The existing jetty was constructed for handling breakbulk not containers, and certainly not for accommodating large container cranes. In addition, the port area was sufficient for current operations, but not for the storage and handling of containers.

The pavement

structure requirements for container operations are different than for handling breakbulk. In addition, the operational and management structure had to change in order to suit a container terminal. Competition in the 8th region (the province of Bio-Bio) to which Coronel belongs is strong. Major competitors are the Portof Lirquen and the Port of San Vicente. Both ports are active in the field of forest products export. Contrary to the Port of Coronel, both competitors had already successfully started
container activities.

In 2007, plans were set in place to make the Port of Coronel one of most modern container ports in the 8th Region. Construction of a new jetty was started and two STS gantry container cranes from ZMPC in China were ordered.

At the same time, a large area of land was acquired about 3 km east of the port area (Manco). This land could serve as overflow area for the storage of containers. The idea was that the type of export products at the port would not change much when the container terminal became operational.

Major export products from the region, such as wood, cellulose, fish and fruits are stuffed into containers for export. For that reason, the operational sequence at the terminal is that empty containers are imported, stuffed and prepared for full export. Such operations require carefully planning and large areas for the stuffing and
storage of containers.

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