The province of Buenos Aires on Tuesday formally inaugurated the $450 million-dollar first stage of the Tecplata container terminal of the port of La Plata, the provincial capital city, Argentina’s largest port investment in half a century.
The inauguration was headed by Daniel Scioli, the Peronist province governor seeking to succeed fellow-Peronist Cristina Fernández de Kirchner in 2015.
Tecplata is wholly owned by ICTSI (International Container Terminal Services, Inc.), from the Philippines.
On Tuesday, the terminal received a feeder container ship as a pilot test on its 600-metre long dock. With two dolphins, the dock has a total length of 660 metres.
The facilities also include four Chinese-made state-of-the-art portico cranes worth US$10 million each, and nine RPGs or trastainers, also made in China, worth US$1.5 million each, Tecplata General Manager Eduardo Zabalza told the Herald.
The local company Industrias Metalúrgicas Pescarmona Sociedad Anónima (IMPSA) used to manufacture portico cranes and Tecplata contacted it when it need to buy the four cranes. By that time, however, IMPSA had ceased to manufacture them, Zabalza said.
Tecplata has a capacity to handle 450,000 TEUs a year but its inauguration comes at a time when container trade in Argentina — handled by the Buenos Aires port terminals and the Dock Sud Exolgán terminal — has fallen sharply from 1.85 million TEUs in 2008 to 1.38-1.4 million TEUs now, due to a combination of the global crisis with local export and import restrictions and a steep decline in the local economy.
“The fall has been very steep. I think that it has exceeded the projection of all operators,” Zabalza said. He added that Tecplata is in talks with ship-owners, but so far, he said, no contract has been secured. However, he added, “Argentine trade has historically recovered quickly and we expect to clinch an accord sometime in 2015.
“We are optimistic. We have always considered this to be a medium- to long-term investment. We have a 30-year concession and we trust Tecplata’s strengths: location, infrastructure, equipment, systems and staff.”
“These US$450 million in foreign investment are here to stay. Come what may, the port of La Plata has now its container terminal,” Zabalza said.
Tecplata is seeking to compete with other Argentine, Brazilian and Uruguayan terminals. It aimed to initially capture 20-25 percent of Argentina’s container trade.
The company plans a second stage expansion to handle 850,000 TEUs a year, “but we are talking about 2021 onwards.
“There will be some minor additional investments over the four or five coming years but capacity will be kept at 450,000 TEUs,” Zabalza said.
The authority of the port of La Plata — 37 kilometres from Buenos Aires by water — has deepened the access channel to 34 feet from 28 feet.
Zabalza said the dock has a depth of 36 feet.
An additional minor dredging, he said, will be conducted to remove sedimentation, when the terminal effectively starts operating.
The dredging works include the removal, over a year, of 5.5 million cubic metres of earth, also to widen the area of manoeuvres.
“These were enormous works and a qualitative leap for the port of La Plata,” he said, adding that it is not worth dredging deeper as long as the Paraná-Paraguay Waterway (hidrovía) has a depth of 34-feet. If the hidrovía authorities deepen it to 35 or 36 feet, Tecplata plans to match that depth. The waterway is shared by Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay.
The port of La Plata grew from a capacity to berth two design vessels of 310-320 metres by 40-45 metres at the same time, from a previous design of 215m by 30m.
The Tecplata works included 25 hectares for truck manoeuvres and circulation ways.
After long delays, the authorities of Buenos Aires Province this year finished paving Avenue 60, connecting the port with the Buenos Aires-La Plata Highway.
Also, Avenue 122 was completed and there has been a lot of progress regarding Road 6, the fourth ring allowing cargo from the north of the province (Zárate, Campana) to reach the port with no need to enter the area of Buenos Aires-La Plata Highway.
Then, a third lane has been added to the Buenos Aires-La Plata Highway until Hudson, and works to extend the highway until four kilometres of the port are already under way.
“There has been a lot of progress in the area of land accesses and we trust that, in a year, there will be a Copernican shift,” Zabalza said.
He added that, once in full operation, the Tecplata is expected to create between 320 and 350 direct jobs and an additional 200 or more to cover demand.
The Tecplata terminal is one of the key public works in the province which generated the conditions to harbour it.
“It is with great joy that we are inaugurating this container terminal in Berisso, the cradle of Peronism, an emblematic site of the workers’ mobilization which made this a great country,” Governor Scioli said.
“This is the largest port work in Argentina of the last 50 years. Where there were just weeds, a geopolitical and strategic project has started,” Scioli said.
This is my vision of the future of the province and the country,” he added.
Referring to road works, he said that, “The best competitive conditions are being generated in the region and this will lead to more investments.
“This is not an isolated work but the adaptation of our road infrastructure to the new reality.”
He thanked President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner for having laid the cornerstone of the Tecplata project in 2009.
The President was invited to Tuesday’s ceremony but failed to attend due to timetable issues, Zabalza said.
Fernández de Kirchner cannot seek a third straight term — she was elected in 2007 and re-elected in 2011.
Source: Buenos Aires Herald Tribune