Thursday , 19 September 2019
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Following the pronouncement by the mayor of Buenos Aires that he wished to see the city’s Puerto Nuevo relocated elsewhere, and the contradictory view of the Port Administrator who wishes to keep all container traffic in the port until 2030, there has still been no announcement from the Federal Government of Argentina, which remains steadfastly tight-lipped on the matter.

Discord in Buenos Aires

In addition, little has been heard from the terminal operators, who seem more concerned with day-to-day matters and internal wrangling than with the long-term future of the port.

However, according to the newspaper La Nación, Argentinian citizens are not so reticent and are now beginning to question this apparent lack of interest. For example, a lady from the interior of the country, with little knowledge of the port industry, was recently moved to write and ask why this confused situation had arisen and why apparently no progress had been made in tackling the confusion? Despite her suggestion that it was time the interested parties, including those not directly involved in the ports industry, started a debate in order to try to get a clarification “of this mess”, even this commonsense appeal from a concerned citizen has had absolutely no effect.

Indeed, the position has now deteriorated further, with the Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC) becoming embroiled in port affairs. The company has made serious allegations to the Commission for the Defence of Competition against two concessionaires, Terminal Rio de La Plata (TRP) which operates terminals 1, 2 and 3, and BACTSSA on Terminal 5, as well as port administrator the AGP. The allegations relate to the bidding process for Terminal 6, from which Philippines-based operator International Container Services Inc (ICTSI) has been disqualified. ICTSI is currently taking legal action over the disqualification.

In its presentation to the Commission, MSC sought to defend the ICTSI bid and accused TRP, BACTSSA and the AGP of fostering a monopoly in which ship-owners and foreign commerce will be left at the uncompetitive mercy of the two terminal operators, which are now the only bidders for Terminal 6.

MSC has also attacked the policies of the AGP, which previously allowed the acquisition of Terminal 3 by TRP, and has denounced the AGP’s ‘Master Plan 2030’ for the Port of Buenos Aires on the grounds that it contains misleading errors, which need to be addressed by the authorities.

According to informed observers, concern is now being expressed at the apparent lack of real planning. There are also concerns that, without urgent measures soon being taken, the Port of Buenos Aires will regress to the situation of 1990, when it was infamous for its derelict warehouses and inefficiency and for being one of the most expensive ports in the world.

Today, the port’s access channels are not being dredged, the costs for foreign trade are increasing alarmingly and there are no vacant storage areas within the port, with the result that empty containers have to be sent to storage yards 35 km away. According to MSC’s analysis of the Master Plan 2030, the port is unable to respond to the requirements created by the growth of the economy, which is based entirely on foreign trade.

In the meantime, a modern container terminal at Zarate which could absorb both current and future growth, as well as reinvigorating port competition, is excluded from doing so by a restriction on the navigation of vessels of over 230 m in length in the Parana river.

Interestingly, at a seminar held in April 2006 at the Chamber of Engineers (Centro Argentino de Ingenieros), a number of specialists in navigation and environmental matters came to the conclusion that there were no valid reasons to maintain this restriction and requested a revision of the ruling. And the result so far? Nothing!