Stranded grains ships to be towed free from Rosario, Argentina

Seven grains ships that have been stranded by low waters at Argentina’s export hub of Rosario will be towed free and sent out to sea, the ports chamber said on Friday May 21st. The vessels were scheduled to be towed on Saturday.

The vessel had been loaded with more produce than could be carried on the port’s increasingly shallow waters, local authorities said. Rosario traffic had also been bottlenecked in the wake of a 48-hour strike by tugboat captains and other workers managing the flow of agricultural cargo ships.

Meteorologists do not expect the navigability of the waterway to improve over the short term.

Seven ships, six of them large Panamaxes, which were loaded with soymeal, corn and other farm products, were moored at Rosario during the work stoppage. After the strike they were unable to embark because they had been loaded with more cargo than could be carried on the port’s current water levels.

Guillermo Wade, manager of Argentina’s Chamber of Port and Maritime Activities (CAPyM), said that “there was a meeting between the transportation ministry, the Coast Guard and the river pilots, and they agreed to tow the ships out. They will start leaving Saturday morning”.

Once the ships have been towed to the main channel of the Parana River they will be able to sail south past Buenos Aires to the Atlantic.

Meanwhile, Paraguay and Brazil have agreed to release water from the Itaipu dam in order to facilitate barge traffic that had been stalled by the shallowness of the Parana.

Unfortunately the other problem, a labour dispute over Covid-19 vaccinations, continue. The strike was set to resume for another 48 hours this week if union demands over access to Covid-19 vaccines are not met.

Argentina is facing a severe second wave of Covid-19, with daily cases and deaths breaking records over the last week. Unions representing port workers have said that their members should be classified as “essential” in order to qualify for Covid-19 vaccines

“The strike generated a total breakdown of logistics, causing congestion at anchorages and making it impossible for new ships to arrive at port to load,” CAPyM and other port authorities wrote in a letter to the transportation ministry last week.