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Ship Containers of up to 255 LOA are now authorized to sail the Parana River up to KM 125

By Tomas De Antoni

Argentine Coast Guard has authorized through Order DISFC-2018-93-APN-DPSN#PNA that navigation of vessels with LOA of up to 255 meters carrying containers is authorized up to km 125 of the Paraná River, through Channel Ing. Emilio Mitre. Such authorization is provisional and on trial for the term of one year.

The volume of trade and consequently the traffic within the Hidrovia has increased considerably over the last decade.

Currently,  the Occupation Factor of these vessels in some sectors is dangerously close to the safe limits and it is not uncommon to find vessels running aground under such conditions. Over the last decade, an average of 12 ocean going vessels ran aground only in the Parana River and about more than 20 incidents have been recorded per year.

Some of these incidents completely blocked the transit, causing millions on losses.

Parana River Pilot’s have several times expressed their concern and they strongly recommend to redesign the Hidrovia to ensure the safe transit of deep sea vessels. They alleged that the problem is not just the depth of the waterway but also its width, which they recommended should be extended to 200 meters, at least in the critical areas due to the increasing breadth of the vessels transiting the Hidrovia.

Nowadays, the HIDROVIA keeps almost the same shape of its original design which was agreed back in 1995.

The width of the channels goes from 100m, in most sections, to 248m in the widest section named Paraná de las Palmas.

Although a few changes have been applied most of them has been pushed by commercial reasons, not safety. For instance, the demand for gas in Argentina and the growing energy crisis that the country is facing has led to huge investments to build an LNG Terminal in Escobar and some areas of the Channel have been modified to allow the transit of LNG carriers with more than 270 meters length.

Now the authorities have decided to authorize container ships to sail up to Km 125 without making any modifications to the channel.

If the vessel exceeds 245 meters of length, it will have to comply with the following additional security measures:

  1. It must have a Bow Thruster of efficient power in relation to the size of the vessel
  2. Its maximum draft allowed for the whole navigation shall be 9.45 meters.
  3. It must inform CONTRASE (traffic control) beforehand of the Air Draft of the vessel, to pass through the Zárate
  4. Bridge – Brazo Largo, both on arrival and sailing.
  5. Navigation is only allowed during daytime.
  6. Navigation is only allowed during good weather conditions.
  7. It must be aided by 2 pilots of River Paraná from km 48 on.