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Bolivia: exporting cargo through Atlantic could be more efficient than Chilean ports

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Víctor Gonzalo Vigabriel Sánchez, general director of maritime interests of the Bolivian Ministry of Defense, said that Bolivian exports from the province of Santa Cruz, the most productive of the country, can leave more efficiently to the Atlantic Ocean through the Paraguay-Paraná Waterway (HPP), instead of doing it through Chilean ports, since the latter would have a higher cost and difficulties in the paperwork.

Vigabriel commented that “for us, it is important to develop this waterway because, in our condition of a cloistered country, it allows the only way to be able to leave freely without any kind of obstacles towards the Atlantic”.

“Considering that the city that produces the most in Bolivia is Santa Cruz, and if we make a distance relation, from Santa Cruz to take all the production to Chilean ports means more expenses, more paperwork. On the other hand, taking all the products from Santa Cruz through the Paraguay-Parana Waterway reduces costs, distances, and times in every sense,” added the Ministry of Defense official.

Bolivian exports from the province of Santa Cruz, the most productive of the country, can leave more efficiently to the Atlantic Ocean through the Paraguay-Paraná Waterway (HPP), instead of doing it through Chilean ports
Bolivian exports from the province of Santa Cruz, the most productive of the country, can leave more efficiently to the Atlantic Ocean through the Paraguay-Paraná Waterway (HPP), instead of doing it through Chilean ports. (Photo: internet reproduction)

Among the advantages highlighted by the general director in the use of the HPP was that “freight costs are cheaper, in the issue of land transport congestion of trucks is avoided because we have had many problems in the transport of trucks from Iquique to La Paz, to remedy this we are making regulation of release of containers. Maritime costs are reduced compared to transiting through the Panama Canal or the Strait of Magellan. Logistics costs are reduced by 14 to 21%”.

In any case, the representative of the high plateau country recognized the difficulties presented by the HPP due to the drought that has affected it, leaving minimum water levels, “with the critically low water levels experienced last year and this year, we reawakened several problems we had, we thought we could solve the navigability in this time of low water, dredging the river, but no (…) the Tamengo Canal reached the minimum water levels. The Tamengo Canal reached critical levels, and we had to stop foreign trade for four to five months, where there were many losses in foreign currency”.

On the other hand, in the case of the Ichilo-Mamoré waterway, which connects Bolivia with Brazil, Vigabriel Sánchez stated that “to export or import products from abroad, the waterway from the interior of Bolivia to Brazil has several obstacles, for example, near Puerto Bello, Brazil built a dam that at the time had no impact, but later with climate change has generated flooding in the upper part of the river, in our territory (…) today there are some projects that are currently being carried out in the area of the Ichilo-Mamoré Canal. Today there are some projects in the region of San Antonio to build locks to facilitate navigation; in the future, we hope that it will become a waterway”.

In his presentation, the Bolivian authority detailed that his country’s maritime cargo mobilizes 3.6 million tons through the Pacific Ocean, of which 3 million leave through Chilean ports and 0.6 million through Peruvian ports.

By the Atlantic Ocean, through the Paraguay-Parana Waterway, 2 million tons are moved, according to figures for the year 2020. The statements were made in the context of the IV Hemispheric Conference on Waterways, Inland Ports, and Cruise Ports.

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