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Operative Advantages of Martín García Canal due to New Depth Limits

Every large vessel intending to enter the ports of the Paraná and/or the Uruguay rivers coming from sea need to sail through the Río de la Plata.

This waterway of the Rio de la Plata is the only one available for transiting from sea to the anchorage of La Plata port. Then, it branches off towards the north into two canals: Emilio Mitre and Martín García.

The first one —closer to Argentina— directly connects with the Paraná de las Palmas river; and the second one —on the Uruguayan coast side— connects with the Uruguay river. It enables the access to the Paraná de las Palmas river, 20 miles north of Zarate port, through the alternative way of the Paraná Bravo river, the Guazu river, and the Talavera passage.

Although the port of destination is determined by commercial agreements between shippers and carriers, the choice of one or the other canal to access the port may vary according to different factors such as: the estimate time of navigation given by distance, traffic, and/or possible previous reservations of the canal; the depth of the waterway; and/or the regulatory requirements depending on the design of each canal and restricting the access to vessels of certain dimensions.

While the Emilio Mitre canal is confined to vessels measuring up to 230 metres (length), the Martín García canal admits vessels of up to 277 metres (length) and 44 metres (beam).

Another difference between these two navigation options was, so far, the depth to zero of the tidal height. While the Emilio Mitre canal dredging is 34 feet in depth (10.36 metres), some time ago, the Martín García was just 32 feet in depth (9.75 metres).

In view of the International Public Bid CARP No. 1/2017, implemented by the Comisión Administradora del Río de la Plata(Rio de la Plata Administration Commission), an Executive Project was passed to begin dredging works in the Martín García canal on April 11, 2018. This Executive Project involves two stages:

The purpose of the first stage is to take the depth limit from 32 feet to 34 feet at the area of soft bottoms, and to 38 feet (11.58 metres) at the area of hard bottoms. The aim of the second stage is to maintain those depth limits for four years.

The purpose of the first stage has recently been accomplished, and the countries of this region are already enjoying the benefits of navigating the Martín García canal instead of the Emilio Mitre. Even though both canals have now the same depth limits, the Martín García admits vessels of up to 277 metres in length, and in the Emilio Mitre, the length is limited to 230 metres. Therefore, the Martín García canal has become a suitable navigation alternative in case of eventual contingencies which may occur in one or the other canal.