“Due to advances in the (five-year) contract, the consortium estimates it could finish phase 1 of the dredging project by year-end,” Captain Marcelo Pazos, delegate of the Uruguayan commission within the Rio de la Plata Administrator Commission (CARP), a bi-national commission of Argentina and Uruguay, said.
The Uruguayan representative at CARP said the contract awarded on February 1 aims to bring the channel’s depth to 34 feet and to 38 feet at hard bottom areas this year.
“The Boskalis (consortium) took over the project with a 32-foot depth. By bringing Martín García to 34 feet, it will become very competitive and comparable to other channels, like Argentina’s Emilio Mitre, also located in the La Plata River,” he said.
The Rio de La Plata is the world’s widest river, with a total area of about 13,500 square miles.
The Boskalis-Dredging International consortium started dredging works at Martín García on July 28 this year, with a February 2019 timeline to complete phase one of the project.
Captain Pazos said the goal is to keep Martín García’s depth at 34 feet for the following four years, as part of maintenance dredging.
“The contract could then be renewed for a further five-year period,” he said. However, he couldn’t estimate how much a potential new five-year contract could be worth.
CARP officials have been labeling the project as “key” to regional trade.
“Dredging at the Martín García channel is very important from both the maritime and trade perspectives. It puts it in the same level of competition when compared to other channels, including Emilio Mitre in Argentina or Nueva Palmira,” he said.
CARP said in press-release in August hard bottom dredging of Martín García channel has performed “well.”
“In the coming months, when we reach a 34 feet depth at the Martín García channel, we will guarantee, for the next five years, with the possibility of a further five-year (contract) renewal, navigability for larger vessels, which will in turn expand regional trade,” CARP said.
Pazos told IDR dredging is now concentrated in the removal of hard bottom.
CARP will remove about 9,000 cubic meters of sediments – mainly slime and sand – in the channel’s rocky areas, which involves a more complex approach and logistics.
Captain Pazos said the two-company consortium is using trailing suction hopper dredges (THSD) Minerva, owned by Dredging International N.V and Boskalis’ Medway in phase one of the project.
The $128.9 million US, five-year contract covers the channels of the La Plata and the Uruguay Rivers between kilometers 37 in Barra del Farallón and kilometer 0 in the Uruguay River.
Boskalis won a similar project in October 2016.
At the time, Boskalis International S.A signed a deal with CARP to dredge the same Uruguayan channel for a six-month term.
The project aimed to recover and keep the navigability of the deep waterway that cut through the otherwise shallow Rio de la Plata at 9.75 meters or (about 32 feet).
While competing for the five-year contract, the Boskalis joint venture (JV) outbid other competitors, including the Van Oord Dredging and Marine Contractors consortium, Chec Dredging Co Ltd, and Jan de Nul Nassbaggerei Und Wasserbau GMBH.
The project will be completed in two stages.
First, the Boskalis JV will perform deepening dredging of the channels of the La Plata River between kilometer 37 and kilometer 0 of the Uruguay River to 34 feet and then to 38 feet in the hard bottom areas.
In a second stage, maintenance dredging will take place to keep the channel at 34 feet
“It could be worth less, as we will only require maintenance dredging by then,” he said.
Pazos was optimistic regarding the advance of dredging in the first year of the contract.