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Peru’s Port of Salaverry Gets Long Awaited Dredging

It took 32 years, the launch and the failure of a campaign to buy a dredge, the construction and collapse of a retaining wall, and heated pressure from port workers and exporters, but at long last Peru’s port of Salaverry is being dredged.

The port is the most vital in the region of La Libertad in northern Peru and among the most important in the country, but sand has been slowly building up there since 1982. Finally, the National Port Authority declared a state of emergency at the port, which allowed it to bypass normal bidding requirements and has hired a partner of Jan de Nul to remove an estimated 1.5 million cubic yards of sand from the port over the next few months.

According to Jose Cabrera Casanova, spokesman for the Port Workers Union at Salaverry, the port has particular issues with sedimentation because of the way it was constructed when it was built in the 1970s. Unlike Callao, Lima’s main port, Salaverry was constructed with an open design that allows sand to flow into the entrance channel and turning basin, Cabrera said. This first became obvious in the early 1980s, when there was so much sedimentation that the port collapsed and could no longer handle ship traffic, Cabrera said. In 1982, the port was dredged, but over the course of the next few decades, the sand continued to build up. In 2006, port workers began a campaign to demand the federal government purchase a dredge to permanently maintain the port’s depth. This campaign was suspended in 2008 when the government chose an alternative plan: it constructed a 1,250-meter (4,101-foot) long retaining wall that was meant to prevent the sand from entering the port.

Jan de Nul’s 11,300-cubic-meter trailing suction hopper Filippo Brunelleschi, arrived in Salaverry Port, after work at the Colombian port of Buenaventura.

This worked for a while, Cabrera said, but it was not designed to allow the sand to bypass the wall and to the beaches north of the port. This damaged the beaches, which lost access to the sand that typically would replenish them, and ultimately led to the collapse of the retaining wall, which allowed sand to begin pouring into the port again, he said.

Finally, under pressure from exporters, port officials and workers, the federal government funded a bathymetric study, which clarified that three areas of the port were most in need of dredging: the entrance channel, the turning basin, and the areas next to the commercial wharves. The report concluded that the siltation in the port was so extreme that it “poses a serious danger to safety at sea,” reported the Peruvian newspaper La Republica.

The government put two small dredges to work clearing some of the worst of it: the Marinero Rivas and the Arciniegas. However, the dredges were not up to the task themselves: The 35-year-old Marinero Rivas immediately needed a major maintenance overhaul and the Arciniegas could only operate from the shoreline. In December, the government announced it would present a proposal for a more substantial dredging. At the time, it estimated the port needed an estimated 1.5 million cubic yards of sediment cleared at a cost of about $11 million.

Within a few months its estimates had swollen to 2.1 million cubic yards of sediment to be dredged at a cost of $25 million, according to La Republica. The government declared a state of emergency to allow for the quick contracting of a dredge.

In July, port authority officials announced that Enapu had contracted Jan de Nul partner Codralux SA sucursal Peru for the work for $17,211,000. The agency also contracted Acciona Ingenieria of Peru for $995,000 to oversee the dredging.

Previous to arriving in Salaverry, the 4,400-cubic- meter trailing suction hopper Francesco di Giorgio did work in Rio de la Plata.

Two Jan de Nul dredges have arrived to conduct the work: The 11,300-cubic-meter trailing suction hopper Filippo Brunelleschi, which has recently arrived from work at the Colombian port of Buenaventura, and the 4,400-cubic meter trailing suction hopper Francesco di Giorgio, which previously did work in Rio de la Plata.

The two dredges will work over the course of the next few months to deepen the port’s entrance channel from about 9 meters (29 feet) to 10.5 meters (34 feet). The turning basin will be dredged to 11 meters (36 feet), and the wharves will be dredged to 10.5 meters (34 feet).

Some environmental concerns have come up about the dredging. Carlos Bocanegra Garcia, environmental review expert and teacher at the National University of Trujillo, was quoted in La Republica in early August stating that Codralux had not adequately explored whether the sediment being dredged is contaminated and where it will placed, and expressed concern the dredging could wind up contaminating the coast and harming marine flora and fauna. But Cabrera dismissed those concerns, saying there had been no complaints of contamination in 1982, the last major dredging, and that the sediment will be placed in the same location.

Other complaints surfaced that the dredging is not extensive enough. Humberto Flores Cornejo, director of the Regional Port Authority La Libertad, worried that because the dredging will only take place in the commercial maritime transport area, local fishermen will be left dealing with their own sedimentation problem, according to La Republica. “You are abandoning the 500 fishermen who are dedicated to that activity, and 1,000 workers who live on fishing indirectly,” he was quoted in La Republica. “Our request is they also dredge around the fishing wharf, because it’s almost unusable.”

Cabrera said such problems could be resolved if the port had its own dredge and didn’t have to resort to emergency dredging. However, he said, dredges are expensive to purchase and operate, and it will likely take at least two years for the government to purchase one, if it chooses to take that route.

In the meantime, it is crucial the port be able to operate in as full a capacity as possible, he said. He noted that the region’s agroindustrial and mining economy is quickly expanding, with some parts of the region anticipating a ten-fold increase in exports in the next several years. He noted that the president of the Chamber of Commerce said he had invested $3 million into a fleet of trucks because the port capacity was not enough to handle all of his business’ demand.

“That’s why it’s necessary to develop the port of Salaverry – because if we don’t and it fills with sand, all our cargo would have to go through other parts of the country, and the Libertad region would turn into one of the most expensive regions in the country to do business.

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