It is easy to demonstrate with figures the economic importance of waterway of the Paraná rivers – Paraguay. More than 90% of the movement of containers enters and leaves there -in the ports of Buenos Aires and Dock Sud-, and the 80% grains, oils and flours from the competitive soy complex.
They also enter key imports for the productive apparatus -at much cheaper prices-, from the fertilizers needed by the “chacareros” to the metallurgical supplies for the factories.
In April 2021 the concession to maintain the dredging and beaconing expires that ships need to enter and exit safely to the port terminals of Gran Rosario. For this reason, the Mediterranean Foundation organized a conference to analyze the future of this logistics and transport node.
In the panel, Luis Zubizarreta, president of the Chamber of Private Ports, recalled that in the last 25 years Argentina’s grain harvest went from 40 to 120 million tons. “It is the only sector in which Argentina was successful and managed to grow at Asian rates. And this trend was influenced by the waterway and the construction of private ports from 1992, ”he highlighted.
For Zubizarreta, what is at stake in the definition of what is going to be done now with the waterway is how to go from 120 to 200 million tons of grain. “To achieve this, it is essential to adapt the waterway to changes in port logistics,” he acknowledged.
Among other issues it supposes deepen 34ft dredging, from the Río de la Plata to the port terminals of Gran Rosario, so that larger ships can enter.
Carolina Beltramino, an economist at the Mediterranean Foundation, recalled that before the waterway, ships could only navigate during the day. “There is a very important link between logistics costs and production. And infrastructure also influences the profitability of investments. From the waterway, grinding capacity grew 100% between 1997 and 2017”, He highlighted.
In August, President Alberto Fernández announced the creation of a state society to control the concession of works to maintain the waterway. This was also one of the axis that ran through the different lectures.
Rafael Conejero, former undersecretary of Ports and Waterways of the Nation -when the waterway was concessioned in the 90’s- recognized that an efficient control body is needed but warned that it is necessary to avoid creating a bureaucratic structure that generates cost overruns.
“The objective of the waterway was to reduce the cost of transportation for the benefit of the cargo and one of the things that works very well is that a tariff structure was achieved – the toll paid by the ships – that is related to the benefit received by the user when using the channel ”, he specified.
Zubizarreta added an important point: the waterway does not have a cost for the State. With what is collected from the toll, the dredging required by the ships is maintained.
With the data from a study that has just been completed -and that was presented to the Government-, José Bernasconi, president of the Transport and Infrastructure Commission of the Rosario Stock Exchange (BCR), also defined some priorities to think about the future from the waterway.
A key point is to improve navigation security, with climate data, electronic charts and a control panel to manage the entire waterway. “The waterway must be made into a predictable navigation channel, from Punta Indio in the Río de la Plata to the ports of Timbúes,” he said. The ideal would be with a draft of 42 feet so as not to depend on the tides when going out with loaded ships to the ocean through the Río de la Plata.
And from the city of Santa Fe to the north, where small boats and barge trains sail, it is essential to solve some problems. “On the General Belgrano bridge, which connects Resistencia and Corrientes, the barge trains must be disarmed with long delays and complications because damage from a barge colliding with the bridge was not repaired”He recalled.
Ultimately, what is being analyzed is not only going to impact the Gran Rosario port cluster, but also Paraguay and some areas of southern Brazil. And it will be central to the productive horizon of the entire coastline.