Key Argentine waterway returning to normal, but more checks needed for shipping to resume

By Thomson Reuters Feb 20, 2024 | 11:02 AM

By Maximilian Heath

BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) – The conditions for navigation on Argentina’s Parana River are returning to normal, Argentina’s Naval authority PNA said on Tuesday, pointing to initial checks it conducted after a stuck boat in the key waterway for grains shipments was freed.

But while the conditions for transit have improved, ships cannot pass the waterway until additional checks are conducted, according to a post on the PNA website.

Shipping traffic had been snarled earlier on Tuesday after the ship Clara Insignia, loaded with wheat, ran aground near the waterway’s main channel and was stuck for several days.

The PNA noted that the ship was freed at 10:30 p.m. local time (0130 GMT) on Monday. The waterway near San Nicolas had been shut early Tuesday morning in order to conduct needed checks.

Guillermo Wade, the head of the maritime port chamber, told Reuters that further checks are needed to achieve the total normalization of navigation on the river. But he added that if depth levels prove to be adequate, navigation could reopen.

For several days, cargo ships could not reach or leave the inland farming port hub of Rosario, where most of the country’s soy, corn and wheat flows down to the Atlantic Ocean and then to buyers around the globe.

Argentina is a top exporter of processed soybeans, corn and wheat.

According to the PNA, the Parana was blocked at kilometer 345; Rosario is located further upriver at kilometer 410.

The decline of the Parana waterway, which knits together a huge swathe of the continent, has hurt river communities, snarled grains transport in Argentina and Paraguay and contributed to a rise in wildfires, damaging wetland ecosystems.

Low levels of rainfall has been associated with global climate change linked to the burning of fossil fuels and the resulting greenhouse gas emissions.

Shipping traffic through the Parana is slower at this time of the year since transport of top crops soybeans and corn mainly starts around April.

The Parana River runs through Brazil, Paraguay, and Argentina. It is South America’s second longest waterway and is a main grain trade route.

(Reporting by Maximilian Heath in Buenos Aires and Ashitha Shivaprasad in Bengaluru; Editing by David Evans, Shron Singleton and Aurora Ellis)