BOGOTA, Aug 15 (Reuters) - Colombia awarded a 2.5 trillion peso ($1.33 billion) contract to a consortium led by Brazil's Odebrecht on Friday to improve the navigability of the Magdalena River which the Andean nation has long planned to exploit for cargo transport.
Odebrecht will have an 87 percent stake in joint-venture Navelena, the only bidder for the contract covering a 908 km (564 mile) stretch of the Magdalena. Colombian construction firm Valorcon holds the remainder, Odebrecht said in a statement.
The project to build infrastructure and carry out dredging work will eventually add 6 million tonnes of cargo transportation capacity to the river that runs past the populous center of the country to the Caribbean coast.
"This project is fundamental for the competitiveness of the country," said Eleuberto Martorelli, president of Odebrecht in Colombia.
The Andean nation's steep terrain and poor roads make it hard for industries to compete in export markets because of the high cost of transporting merchandise to the ports. The Magdalena River, however, flows to Barranquilla, one of the country's main sea ports.
The government will not have to pay for the works and services until they are delivered, the statement said, adding that Navelena had received proposals from international and local banks to finance the project.
$1 = 1884.4500 Colombian Pesos Reporting by Peter Murphy