Argentina tightens security along Paraná Waterway

Argentina tightens security along Paraná Waterway

Tuesday, September 5th 2023 – 10:23 UTC

Specialized Customs officers and antinarcotics dogs are being deployed by Argentine authorities

Citing security concerns and possible drug trafficking, Argentine authorities have upped their controls on Paraguayan barges sailing through the Paraná River, it was reported in Buenos Aires.

These inspections are carried out in accordance with the Argentine Customs Code and the Agreement on River Transport on the Paraguay-Parana Waterway by teams of specialized Customs officers and antinarcotics dogs.

Customs pointed out that the waterway, which gives access to the Atlantic from river ports, is “the most important waterway” of Mercosur (a block formed by Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay, and Brazil) “and as such, it is a chosen route for smuggling drugs to Europe”, “taking advantage of the complexity of the controls on barges loaded with grain or iron ore.”

The Agreement on River Transport on the Paraguay-Parana Waterway establishes that Customs must refrain from carrying out inspections or controls on transport units along the waterway except when they enter the port to carry out operations and limiting themselves to checking the documentation and external conditions of the cargo, such as sealing.

But in case of suspicion of fraud, “this in no way limits the right of customs to carry out the controls they consider pertinent,” the Argentine authorities insisted.

Bolivia, Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay agreed last week to explore “cooperation alternatives” to “strengthen” the Executive Secretariat of the Intergovernmental Committee of the Paraguay-Parana Waterway, in addition to “improving” the navigability and safety of the route.

The representatives of the five countries that make up the La Plata Basin Treaty agreed on several issues at the 49th Ordinary Meeting of the Intergovernmental Committee of the Paraguay-Parana Waterway, with Bolivia as pro tempore president.

They also discussed an action plan to “reactivate” the Technical Cooperation Commission (CCT) of this body to address issues of “technical interest” in the waterway.

In addition, the establishment of tolls for the circulation of vessels and the control of some “illicit” acts were identified as matters of “special concern”, as part of the improvement of “navigability and safety conditions.”

At the committee meeting, Bolivia, Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay expressed their “serious concern” over the toll established by Argentina for the transport of ships in the section between the port of Santa Fe and the confluence with the Paraguay River. The four countries again asked Argentina to “suspend the application” of the resolutions approved by its Ministry of Transport in 2022 and proposed that “the necessary measures” be adopted to comply with the 1992 Santa Cruz de la Sierra Agreement. Bolivia handed over the pro tempore presidency of the committee to Brazil at the last meeting.

Bolivia highlighted the Paraguay-Paraná Waterway as a “fundamental and concrete alternative” to its “Mediterranean” geographical condition, without access to a sovereign port, and therefore considered it necessary to develop its “full potential”.

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