The government of Argentina decided this month to subcontract the dredging of the Parana River – whose dropping water level is forcing ships to reduce their carrying capacity to avoid grounding in the shallow water – while officials prepare for a long-term concession. In addition, during the one-year subcontracting period, the National Ports Administration (NPA) will charge tolls to the ships using the Rosario export terminal, a responsibility in the past of the dredging company.
The decision means the NPA now has the authority to sign contracts for the management of the waterway over the next 12 months, while the Ministry of Transport evaluates dredging companies’ proposals for longer-term river management.
Argentinian farmers and exporters say paying tolls to the state rather than to the dredging company will raise their export costs. Luis Zubizarreta, president of Argentina’s chamber of private ports, said, “The current system works well, with river users paying the tolls directly to the dredging company. We need to maintain this. If the flow of money goes through the state, the cost of dredging services will increase.”
Gustavo Idigoras, head of the CIARA-CEC chamber of grains-processing and export companies, agrees. “It would be a big mistake for the state to directly manage the dredging of the river. It does not have the economic or technical resources to do that,” he said.
The Rosario grains exchange also warned against the government’s involvement. “It is essential that this work remains in the hands of specialized companies,” the exchange said.