In 2020, the Uruguayan government agreed on a framework agreement for the dredging and widening of the access channel to the port of Montevideo, which provoked criticism from neighbouring Argentina. Now the Argentine government has informed Uruguay that it has authorized the dredging of the access channel to the port of Montevideo to only 13 meters, and not 14, as announced by the current and previous Uruguayan governments.
On December 14, 2020, the Ministry of Transportation and Public Works and the National Development Corporation (CND) from Uruguay signed the agreement to execute the plan.
In a letter sent on March 25 to Alem García, the president of the Uruguayan delegation of the Comisión Administradora del Río de la Plata (CARP), the Argentine delegation informs that it can be stated that the approved project is at -13 m depth and not at -14 m, reported Bimarítimo, the portal of a magazine specialized in port matters.
The Argentine position is not to object to the depth at -14 meters since such depth was never under consideration from the approval of the Project until its approval, the letter adds.
Transportation Minister, Luis Alberto Heber, affirmed in December in a press release published by the government that this work means an “unequalled positioning for Uruguay because no port in the region can reach such a great depth.” He explained that a large part of the access channel to the port of Montevideo is favoured by water currents and therefore requires very low maintenance costs. However, the article was actually entitled The access channel to the port of Montevideo will be dredged to 14 metres, not 13 metres.
Empowering the port of Montevideo means more work for Uruguayans, the minister affirmed.
A Kirchner administration official targeted Uruguay and seeks to re-edit the war of the ports of the Río de la Plata. The objective is to recover cargo currently operated through the port of Montevideo, which he accused of laundering money.
In mid-March, the Argentine government's undersecretary for the execution of public works, Edgardo Depetri, addressed the issue at a forum in which he argued that his administration had an opportunity to clearly and concretely rethink a scandalous negotiation. In his presentation, the official promoted a design of waterways to recover cargo and accused Uruguay of money laundering” through the operation of its port.
However, in November 2020, the Argentine government issued a decree enabling the bidding process for the dredging of the Paraná River up to the Punta del Indio channel. The regulation of the government of Alberto Fernández generated a debate within the ruling party of the neighbouring country on the strategic decision of the navigability of the waters of the Río de la Plata.
After the agreement announced by Minister Heber, the criticisms did not take long to arrive from the hardcore of Kirchnerism and were made by trusted officials of Vice-President Cristina Fernández, in a discussion reminiscent of a conflict that Uruguay and Argentina had during the last Kirchner government (2011-2015).
According to Uruguayan media, the difference of one meter between the amount authorized by Argentina and the work that Uruguay plans to undertake is explained by the confusion that dates back to the government of former President Tabaré Vázquez, when the then Minister of Transportation, Víctor Rossi, announced that Argentina had authorized dredging to 14 meters. This dredge deep is not the one published in that press release from 14 December, 2020.