A 48-hour strike last week by tugboat captains and others backed up agricultural exports at Argentina’s Port of Rosario. The workers were demanding they be classified as ‘essential’ to gain access to Covid-19 vaccines. Unions representing the workers have said they will strike again this week if there is no action to address their concerns. A severe second wave of Covid saw Argentina hit new records last week for daily cases and deaths.
Argentina is currently in the midst of harvest season for its soy and corn crops. Last week’s work stoppage “generated a total breakdown of logistics, causing congestion at anchorages and making it impossible for new ships to arrive at port to load,” according to a letter sent by Argentina’s Chamber of Port and Maritime Activities (CAPyM) and other port authorities to the transportation ministry asking for help to unblock the port.
Exacerbating the congestion, seven ships that had been loaded with agricultural products were unable to leave the port because of the low water level of the Parana River, which is dropping as dry weather continues at the source of the river in Brazil. The shallow water means cargo volumes are having to be cut to reduce vessel weights.
Port managers worked during the strike to unload part of the cargo of the ships to enable them to sail.
Subsequently, “there was a meeting between the transportation ministry, the Coast Guard and the river pilots, and they agreed to tow the ships out,” said Guillermo Wade, manager of CAPyM, starting on May 22. “Once the ships are towed to the main channel of the Parana River, they will be able to sail south past Buenos Aires to the Atlantic.”