The River Plate begins at the confluence of the Paraná and Uruguay river. By convention, its interior limit is taken at the parallel of latitude passing through Punta Gorda (33°55'S 58°25'W) on the Uruguayan coast just below Nueva Palmira, and its exterior limit being formed by an imaginary line joining Punta del Este (Uruguay) and Punta Rasa on Cape San Antonio (Argentina). The width at its mouth is about 150 nautical miles.
Its waters are of a distinctive brownish color due to the presence of sediments in suspension carried by its upriver tributaries and the river bed is soft mud. Within the River Plate a layer of denser silt (fango) is encountered in the bottom of the channels. The presence of this layer of silt is responsible for discrepancies between echo sounder readings and those obtained by hand lead. Latest editions of charts drawn up by the Argentine Hydrographic Office insert depths as per echo sounder.
For practical purposes the specific gravity (SG) of its waters may be considered as brackish (SG = 1,012) between the exterior limits and about km 81, off Banco Chico, and from this point inwards, as fresh water (SG = 1,000). Variations will be experienced according to tide, prevailing winds and flood effects.
It should be carefully borne in mind that in the shallow and restricted waters of the River Plate, strict attention must be paid to such factors as: squat, interaction, critical speed, loss of steerage and allowances for current set. List on the vessel will of course produce an increase in draft and also indirectly increase the ship's beam when considering channel depth and width.
Ocean going vessels trading to and from the Plate and upriver ports must transit via natural or artificial shallow channels. Information regarding depths and widths of channels, river passes and depths off quaysides is regularly published in the weekly Fluvial Bulletin (Boletín Fluvial) issued by the Subsecretary of ports and Waterways, but this information should be treated with caution. Pilots who regularly assist vessels could also be consulted.
All matters concerning sovereignty, jurisdiction, exploration and exploitation of river bed, fishing, buoyage, pilotage, lighterage, contamination, islands, construction of channels etc. between Argentina and Uruguay are guided by the terms of the Treaty of the River Plate and its Coastal Waters duly signed by both countries on the 19th of November 1973 and confirmed by Laws 20.645 (Argentina) and 14.145 (Uruguay):
Following the deregulation process in Argentina and the boom of Soya growing which started in the Rosario-Santa Fe area, the private port terminals associated to crushing plants, developed along a stretch of the River Paraná coast starting north at Km 464.7 (Renova terminal) downstream to Km 395.5 (Arroyo Seco).
The result of these private developments, has been an increase in efficiency and a cost per metric ton loaded reduction, against the previous situation where state controlled ports and Grain board.
Despite nearly 75% of the Argentine agro-products export is being shipped from these terminals, there are other grain loading terminals located at ports such us San Pedro/ Ramallo/ Lima/ Zarate, etc that export the rest of the Argentinian commodities.
Berthing prospects for ships are regulated by each terminal, the usual way being to line up vessels as per their time of arrival at Recalada P/S. Once authorized to proceed up river, vessels then anchor at roads, where they are cleared and their holds inspected; upon approval ships are then berthed. Loading operations are performed round the clock, with different overtime costs at each terminal.
Straight time Working hours for all terminals: usually from Monday to Friday from 0700 hs to 1900 hs and Saturday from 0700 hs to 1300 hs. The remaining times are considered as overtime. As per terminal's regulations, before berthing, the Charterers/ Shippers/ Coordinators/ Agents must confirm the round-the-clock operations. Otherwise, the vessel could loose her position if any of the other ones waiting at anchorage to berth confirms overtime operations.
When needing to top up cargo to max draft in Argentina there are two options Necochea down to 13,10m bw and Bahia Blanca down to 13,71m sw.
Vessels loaded upriver sail downstream ending their outbound navigation at Recalada. From there they turn southbound for a 24 hr navigation to Necochea or 36 hrs to Bahia Blanca.
For both ports NAABSA clause is recommended and there are no facilities/anchorages either for cleaning or inspecting holds. Hold inspections are carried out alongside loadberth just prior to start loading.
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