“State Policy” and “national sovereignty” were the two concepts that most resonated during the Public Hearing of the project to dredge and mark the Magdalena Channel off the coast of the Province of Buenos Aires, that would enable a direct connection between the Argentine river ports and the Atlantic Ocean, that is, the rest of the world.

During the six hours that the hearing lasted, the 41 speakers, including senators, deputies, engineers, former officials, specialists, union representatives and environmental referents, made their appreciations regardinghe project that would allow larger vessels to circulate through Argentine waters avoiding the forced passage through Uruguayan jurisdiction, as it works today.

The hearing was convened by the Temporary Special Executing Unit “Canal Magdalena” to study the possible environmental impact of the dredging, opening, signaling and maintenance tasks that have to be done in the canal.

Beyond some disagreements, most of the speakers agreed on the importance of this initiative to reinforce sovereignty and its positive impact on the economy, provided that it was accompanied by a development of the national naval industry.

Many of them emphasized the importance of actually executing the work, which has been a pending project for 20 years. In response to these claims, José Beni, the comptroller of the General Administration of Ports (AGP) and head of the Unit in charge of the project stressed during the closing of the day: “We proposed to move forward this year with the tender and I am confident that we will be able to comply”.

“Now there is not only the political will to carry it outInstead, there is the budget, the money planned to carry out this task, ”said national senator Jorge Taiana during his presentation. In the 2021 Budget, a multi-year item of 25.8 million pesos was established for its financing with an estimated development time of two years.

Sovereignty

“We Argentines usually say that we have to look at the sea, but we cannot think that if our river ports cannot even communicate with our sea ports: I am not referring to the ports of Patagonia with those of the Paraná River; currently they cannot communicate neither the ports of the province of Buenos Aires with each other, the port of Bahía Blanca with that of Quequén or that of Mar del Plata “, explained Taiana, the first speaker of the audience and public reference for his commitment to carry out this project .

The senator summarized with an image how much it affects national sovereignty and the possibility of development not having the Magdalena Canal enabled for large ships: “The ships that circulate through Argentina have to leave for Uruguay, pay, wait and then come slowly when it is his turn for the Canal Punta Indio “.

Currently, the natural channel has a depth of 4.50 metersTherefore, large-draft ships that enter or leave the country, as well as those that do so within Argentina (transporting merchandise, for example from the Port of Quequén to the Port of Campana, both in the Province of Buenos Aires) must do so. through the Punta Indio Canal, which has a mandatory passage through Montevideo. This implies economic, logistical and time costs for national and international trade.

In this sense, the national government proposes a navigation route of an approximate length of 53 kilometers and a width of 200 meters, to which a constant dredging will be carried out to bring its depth to 12 meters: “What it is about is to have our own, short, safe, simple, cheap and economically and environmentally road with the least possible impact, towards the South Atlantic”, summarized Taiana.

Naval industry

One of the most recurrent alerts around the project highlighted by several of the speakers has to do with the importance of accompanying it with the development of a national naval industry.

Pedro Wasiejko, President of Rio Santiago Shipyardssaid that this initiative constitutes a key tool to guarantee national and regional integration and enables the possibility of rebuilding the flag fleet to serve maritime and river cabotage.

“The project is technically impeccable, but politically a shipbuilding industry must be generated to create jobs in the country. Today, between 4 and 5 billion dollars per year come out in terms of freight,” said the Secretary General of the Center for Patrons and Fluvial Officers of Fishing and Maritime Cabotage, Julio Insfrán who added that “to complete this project it is necessary to develop a merchant marine. Argentina does not have a river or sea fleet. Without this development, freight and cargo will continue to be handled by the foreign flag ”.

The specialists made special focus on this point in anticipation of an alleged omission by the State each time the project is discussed. However, the same Axel Kicillof (Governor of the Province of Buenos Aires, jurisdiction where the Magdalena Canal is located) referred during the first plenary session of the Federal Council of the Waterway: “For Buenos Aires it is an opportunity; we are at the door that opens the way to the development of a merchant marine with a national flag, new channels, discussion of local dredgers, and improved logistics ”.

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