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Port of Buenos Aires

Port of Buenos Aires

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The Port of Buenos Aires is the principal maritime port in Argentina. Operated by the Administración General de Puertos (General Ports Administration), a State enterprise, it is the leading transshipment point for the foreign trade of Argentina
Foreign trade of Argentina
-Modern history:Agriculturally productive and thinly populated, Argentina recorded trade surpluses for most of the period between 1900 and 1948, including a cumulative US$1 billion during World War I and US$1.7 billion during World War II. Record taxes on grain exports imposed by the...


The current port is located in the city's Retiro
Retiro, Buenos Aires
Retiro is a barrio in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Located in the northeast end of the city, Retiro is bordered on the south by the Puerto Madero and San Nicolás wards, and on the west by the Recoleta ward.-Urban character:...

 ward, and is colloquially known as Puerto Nuevo (New Port). The Port of Buenos Aires handles around 11 million metric tons of cargo annually; Dock Sud
Dock Sud
Dock Sud is a district of the Avellaneda Partido of Buenos Aires Province, Argentina. It forms part of the Greater Buenos Aires agglomeration.-Sport:...

, which is owned by the Province of Buenos Aires, is south of the city proper, and handles another 17 million metric tons.

Passenger traffic at the port peaked during the golden era of immigration in Argentina (until 1930), when the port was the site of the Hotel de Inmigrantes
Hotel de Inmigrantes
Hotel de Inmigrantes is a complex of buildings constructed between 1906 and 1911, in the port of Buenos Aires, Argentina, to receive and assist the many thousands of immigrants who, at that time, where arriving in Argentina from many parts of the world...

. In later decades, this was limited mainly to tourist visitors to Argentina
Tourism in Argentina
Tourism in Argentina is favored by its ample and varied natural assets and by its cultural offerings. The country is lucky to have everything a tourist would ask for...

, as well as Argentine visitors to Uruguay
Tourism in Uruguay
Tourism in Uruguay is an important facet of the nation's economy.-Overview:Relative to its modest land area and population, Uruguay is both a popular international tourism destination and home to a vigorous, domestic tourist trade...

. A fast ferry service operated by Buquebus
Buquebus is a Uruguayan company which operates ferry services from Montevideo, Colonia and Piriapolis to Buenos Aires. The company also operates a fleet of coaches to Termas del Arapey, Termas del Dayman, Salto, Uruguay, Carmelo, Atlántida, Punta del Este, La Paloma, La Pedrera and Punta del Diablo...

 and Ferrylíneas operates short routes to and from the Uruguay
Uruguay ,officially the Oriental Republic of Uruguay,sometimes the Eastern Republic of Uruguay; ) is a country in the southeastern part of South America. It is home to some 3.5 million people, of whom 1.8 million live in the capital Montevideo and its metropolitan area...

an cities of Colonia del Sacramento
Colonia del Sacramento
Colonia del Sacramento is a city in southwestern Uruguay, by the Río de la Plata, facing Buenos Aires, Argentina. It is the oldest town in Uruguay and capital of the departamento of Colonia. It has a population of around 22,000.It is renowned for its historic quarter, a World Heritage Site...

 and Montevideo
Montevideo is the largest city, the capital, and the chief port of Uruguay. The settlement was established in 1726 by Bruno Mauricio de Zabala, as a strategic move amidst a Spanish-Portuguese dispute over the platine region, and as a counter to the Portuguese colony at Colonia del Sacramento...

; Sturla transports tourists to and from Tigre
Tigre, Buenos Aires
Tigre is a town in the Buenos Aires Province, Argentina, situated in the north of Greater Buenos Aires, north of Buenos Aires city. Tigre lies on the Paraná Delta and is an important tourist and weekend attraction, easily reached by bus and train services, including the scenic Tren de la Costa...

, a popular weekend destination. The Benito Quinquela Martín
Benito Quinquela Martín
Benito Quinquela Martín , 1890 – January 28, 1977) was an Argentine painter born in La Boca, Buenos Aires. Quinquela Martín is considered the port painter-par-excellence and one of the most popular Argentine painters...

 Terminal, inaugurated in 2000, served 120 cruise ship
Cruise ship
A cruise ship or cruise liner is a passenger ship used for pleasure voyages, where the voyage itself and the ship's amenities are part of the experience, as well as the different destinations along the way...

 arrivals with a total of 100,000 visitors in 2010.

Quinquela Martín was a local Realist painter known for his use of the port and its workers as imagery.

Early development

Buenos Aires itself was founded as a port by Captain Juan de Garay
Juan de Garay
Juan de Garay was a Spanish conquistador.Garay was born in Orduña, Spain. He served under the Spanish crown, in the Viceroyalty of Peru...

 in 1580 for the Spanish Empire
Spanish Empire
The Spanish Empire comprised territories and colonies administered directly by Spain in Europe, in America, Africa, Asia and Oceania. It originated during the Age of Exploration and was therefore one of the first global empires. At the time of Habsburgs, Spain reached the peak of its world power....

. It was stymied early on, however, by merchants from the Viceroyalty of Perú
Viceroyalty of Peru
Created in 1542, the Viceroyalty of Peru was a Spanish colonial administrative district that originally contained most of Spanish-ruled South America, governed from the capital of Lima...

, who had the port closed in 1595. The difficulty of transporting European goods from Lima
Lima is the capital and the largest city of Peru. It is located in the valleys of the Chillón, Rímac and Lurín rivers, in the central part of the country, on a desert coast overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Together with the seaport of Callao, it forms a contiguous urban area known as the Lima...

 fostered an active smuggling
Smuggling is the clandestine transportation of goods or persons, such as out of a building, into a prison, or across an international border, in violation of applicable laws or other regulations.There are various motivations to smuggle...

 trade in Buenos Aires, and locals' reliance on contraband did not subside until after the 1776 establishment of the Viceroyalty of Río de la Plata. Following this concession, exports (mainly salted meat and cowhide
Cowhide is the natural, unbleached skin and hair of a cow. It retains the original coloring of the animal. Cowhides are a natural product/by-product of the food industry from cattle. Cowhide can also be processed into a leather, which can be used to make such things as shoes, wallets and leather...

s) flourished, and customs duties became the paramount source of public revenue.
Until the latter part of the nineteenth century, however, the natural harbor of Balizas Interiores (Interior Beacons) served as the main port. Before the current infrastructure was built, Buenos Aires had only a mooring or pier of shallow and low, swampy terrain. It was, moreover, of difficult access, as the city it served was located atop an incline
Incline, inclined, inclining, or inclination may refer to:* Incline, California* Inclined plane, a flat surface whose endpoints are at different heights* Inclined orbit, an orbital plane is tipped away from the equator...

, and heavy silt
Silt is granular material of a size somewhere between sand and clay whose mineral origin is quartz and feldspar. Silt may occur as a soil or as suspended sediment in a surface water body...

 deposits on the Río de la Plata
Río de la Plata
The Río de la Plata —sometimes rendered River Plate in British English and the Commonwealth, and occasionally rendered [La] Plata River in other English-speaking countries—is the river and estuary formed by the confluence of the Uruguay River and the Paraná River on the border between Argentina and...

An estuary is a partly enclosed coastal body of water with one or more rivers or streams flowing into it, and with a free connection to the open sea....

 limited seaborne access, as well. Merchant ships anchored several miles offshore, where passengers and cargo transshipped to shallow-draft vessels that approach the shore. Silt and other alluvial material from the Matanza River
Matanza River
The Matanza River is known by several names, including, in Spanish, Río de la Matanza , Río Matanza , Río Mataderos , Río de la Manzana , El Riachuelo , or simply Riachuelo...

 (south of Buenos Aires) prevented the opening of a sufficiently deep channel to facilitate shipping.
Law 280, passed by the Argentine Congress in 1868, ordered technical studies to determine the most appropriate place for the construction of a modern port. Proximity to the city was deemed essential to maintain the central government's fiscal control of its operations, mainly exerted through the collection of duties. The distribution of these latter monies, the leading source of public revenue throughout the 19th century and as late as 1940, was the chief point of contention between Buenos Aires leaders and those from the hinterland.

The San Nicolás Agreement
San Nicolás Agreement
The San Nicolás Agreement was a pact signed on May 31, 1852 and subscribed by all but one of the 14 provinces of the United Provinces of the River Plate . The treaty consisted of 19 articles, and its goal was to set the bases for the national organization of the young Argentine state...

 of 1852, whereby all customs duties were nationalized, was rejected by Buenos Aires leader Bartolomé Mitre
Bartolomé Mitre
Bartolomé Mitre Martínez was an Argentine statesman, military figure, and author. He was the President of Argentina from 1862 to 1868.-Life and times:...

, and led to a compromise in the form of the 1862 creation of the National Customs Administration. The Executive Branch negotiated the transfer of public lands necessary for the project with Buenos Aires authorities, as these belonged to the provincial government. The agreement signed at the end of 1871 provided that the federal government would be responsible for the supervision of works, but jurisdictional disputes continued. Only the 1880 Federalization of Buenos Aires, and the lands' subsequent federal control, resolved these disputes.

German Argentine businessman Francisco Seeber
Francisco Seeber
Francisco Seeber was an Argentine military officer, businessman and Mayor of Buenos Aires.-Life and times:...

 had anticipated thse developments by establishing the Catalinas Warehouse and Pier Company, Ltd., in 1872. The task of mooring ships was significantly eased with a new harbor, the first in Argentina to result from land reclamation
Land reclamation
Land reclamation, usually known as reclamation, is the process to create new land from sea or riverbeds. The land reclaimed is known as reclamation ground or landfill.- Habitation :...

, and of an extensive pier
A pier is a raised structure, including bridge and building supports and walkways, over water, typically supported by widely spread piles or pillars...

. The pier stretched several hundred meters into the river to facilitate the arrival of smaller vessels, and served both shipping and passenger traffic for two decades; honor of the Parish of Santa Catalina de Sienna, the harbor was christened Catalinas Norte
Catalinas Norte
Catalinas Norte is an important business complex composed of fifteen commercial office buildings, in two sections, and occupied by numerous leading Argentine companies, foreign subsidiaries, diplomatic offices, and a hotel...


Two proposals

President Julio Roca then commissioned studies for a new, much larger port in 1881. The Director of Riachuelo River Works, Luis Huergo
Luis Huergo
Luis Augusto Huergo was an Argentine engineer prominent in the development of his country's ports.-Early career:...

, presented plans of his own design for a port of staggered docks. This plan, and a British design purchased by local businessman Eduardo Madero
Eduardo Madero
Eduardo Madero was an Argentine merchant, banker and developer.-Life and times:Eduardo Madero was born in Buenos Aires, in 1823, to a family of farmers. A nephew of publisher Florencio Varela, his uncle's enmity with the Governor of Buenos Aires Province, Juan Manuel de Rosas, led Madero to...

, were presented to Congress in June 1882. Obtaining financing from Baring Brothers, as well as the support of President Roca, Madero's plan received the endorsement of Senator Carlos Pellegrini
Carlos Pellegrini
Carlos Enrique José Pellegrini Bevans was President of Argentina from 6 August 1890 to 12 October 1892....

 (one of the Senate's most powerful figures), and it was approved by both houses in October 1882.

Drawing from an initiative first raised by Act No. 1257 of October 1822, Madero contracted British engineer Sir John Hawkshaw
John Hawkshaw
Sir John Hawkshaw , was an English civil engineer.-Early life:He was born in Leeds, Yorkshire and was educated at Leeds Grammar School...

 to design the new facility. Conceived as four contiguous impounded docks the works began in 1884. The first dock was completed in 1888, and inaugurated on January 28, 1889, by the most prominent early supporter of the plan, Carlos Pellegrini (who was now Vice President of Argentina).

The Panic of 1890
Panic of 1890
The Panic of 1890 was an acute depression, although less serious than other panics of the era. It was precipitated by the near insolvency of Barings Bank in London. Barings, led by Edward Baring, 1st Baron Revelstoke, faced bankruptcy in November 1890 due mainly to excessive risk-taking on poor...

 delayed these works, however, and they were completed only in 1897. The port, known as Puerto Madero
Puerto Madero
Puerto Madero, also known within the urban planning community as the Puerto Madero Waterfront, is a barrio of the Argentine capital at Buenos Aires CBD, occupying a significant portion of the Río de la Plata riverbank and representing the latest architectural trends in the city of Buenos...

, had by 1907 become insufficient to meet growing maritime traffic. Puerto Madero, and its complementary Catalinas docks, could handle a maximum of 30,000 tons of cereals daily (cereal
Cereals are grasses cultivated for the edible components of their grain , composed of the endosperm, germ, and bran...

s were the leading export of Argentina, and the foreign exchange
Foreign exchange reserves
Foreign-exchange reserves in a strict sense are 'only' the foreign currency deposits and bonds held by central banks and monetary authorities. However, the term in popular usage commonly includes foreign exchange and gold, Special Drawing Rights and International Monetary Fund reserve positions...

 these shipments earned were key to the mercantile model of the time). They operated near or at capacity, however, and an expansion of the port was authorized in September 1907 by President José Figueroa Alcorta
José Figueroa Alcorta
José Figueroa Alcorta was President of Argentina from 12 March 1906 to 12 October 1910.Figueroa Alcorta was born in Córdoba as the son of José Figueroa and Teodosia Alcorta. He was elected a National Representative for Córdoba before becoming Provincial Governor in 1895. In 1898 he returned to the...


Luis Huergo's dormant plans for staggered docks were approved in 1911, and work promptly began on the Puerto Nuevo (New Port). Located north of Catalinas Norte, this project was directed by Richard Souldby Oldham, Walker & Co., was delayed by the scarcity of material and financing brought about by World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

, and would ultimately require 15 years. This would add a breakwater
Breakwater (structure)
Breakwaters are structures constructed on coasts as part of coastal defence or to protect an anchorage from the effects of weather and longshore drift.-Purposes of breakwaters:...

, five more docks, and then a sixth, to the existing infrastructure, and when these additions were inaugurated in 1925, the Port of Buenos Aires was the largest in Latin America, and the southern hemisphere.


The Port of Buenos Aires is operated by the state-owned General Port Administration. It was originally established in 1949 by President Juan Perón
Juan Perón
Juan Domingo Perón was an Argentine military officer, and politician. Perón was three times elected as President of Argentina though he only managed to serve one full term, after serving in several government positions, including the Secretary of Labor and the Vice Presidency...

 as the Dirección Nacional de Puertos (National Port Directorate), and oversaw all major port operations in Argentina. The entity was reorganized as the Administración General de Puertos by President Raúl Alfonsín
Raúl Alfonsín
Raúl Ricardo Alfonsín was an Argentine lawyer, politician and statesman, who served as the President of Argentina from December 10, 1983, to July 8, 1989. Alfonsín was the first democratically-elected president of Argentina following the military government known as the National Reorganization...

 on September 4, 1987. Chronic losses, which by the early 1990s averaged over us$60 million yearly, prompted its 1992 privatization
Privatization is the incidence or process of transferring ownership of a business, enterprise, agency or public service from the public sector to the private sector or to private non-profit organizations...

 by President Carlos Menem
Carlos Menem
Carlos Saúl Menem is an Argentine politician who was President of Argentina from 1989 to 1999. He is currently an Argentine National Senator for La Rioja Province.-Early life:...

. Menem, however, vetoed the sale of the Port of Buenos Aires itself, and it remained in the federal government's aegis.

The Argentine maritime fleet was initially developed by Croatian Argentine
Croatian Argentine
Croatians in Argentina or Croatian Argentine are Argentine of Croatian descent. Croats and their descendants have made valuable contributions to their new country...

 businessman Nicolás Mihanovich
Nicolás Mihanovich
Nicolás Mihanovich was a Croatian Argentine businessman closely linked to the development of the Argentine merchant marine.-The Beginnings:Nicolás Mihanovich was born in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, in what is today Croatia, in 1844...

, whose Argentina Navigation Company and related firms dominated local shipping during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The firm was sold to a consortium led by a British shipping magnate, Lord Kylsant
Owen Philipps, 1st Baron Kylsant
Owen Cosby Philipps, 1st Baron Kylsant was a British businessman and politician, later jailed for producing a document with intent to deceive.-Background:...

, and an Argentine investor, Alberto Dodero, in 1918, and would operate as the Compañia Argentina de Navegación Dodero from 1942.

This fleet was nationalized in 1949 by President Perón, who established Flota Mercante del Estado (State Mechant Marine) while retaining the Dodero family as owners of the management concession. This partnership ended with the 1955 coup
Revolución Libertadora
The Revolución Libertadora was a military uprising that ended the second presidential term of Juan Perón in Argentina, on September 16, 1955.-History:...

 that deposed Perón, however, and its management was nationalized as Flota Argentina de Navegaceon de Ultramar. President Arturo Frondizi
Arturo Frondizi
Arturo Frondizi Ercoli was the President of Argentina between May 1, 1958, and March 29, 1962, for the Intransigent Radical Civic Union.-Early life:Frondizi was born in Paso de los Libres, Corrientes Province...

 merged the fleet and management entities into Empresa Líneas Marítimas del Estado (ELMA) in 1960; ELMA was stripped of its cargo preference at the Port of Buenos Aires in 1991, and unable to privatize the carrier, sold its fleet piecemeal.

The New Port's electricity supply has been principally supplied by the Dr. Carlos Givogri power plant. Built in 1930 by the Italian Argentine
Italian Argentine
An Italian Argentine is a person born in Argentina of Italian ancestry. It is estimated up to 25 million Argentines have some degree of Italian descent...

 Electric Company (CIAE), its 71 m (233 ft) eclecticist façade is the port's most distinguishable architectural feature. The chief manufacturing firm located on the port district's premises is the Tandanor
Tandanor is an Argentine worker-owned shipyard, and the nation's largest. Tandanor is involved in shipbuilding and ship repair and has facilities in Buenos Aires' port....

Shipbuilding is the construction of ships and floating vessels. It normally takes place in a specialized facility known as a shipyard. Shipbuilders, also called shipwrights, follow a specialized occupation that traces its roots to before recorded history.Shipbuilding and ship repairs, both...

 and repair facility. A worker cooperative
Worker cooperative
A worker cooperative is a cooperative owned and democratically managed by its worker-owners. This control may be exercised in a number of ways. A cooperative enterprise may mean a firm where every worker-owner participates in decision making in a democratic fashion, or it may refer to one in which...

 since its 1999 bankruptcy, Tandanor operates with a Workers' self-management
Workers' self-management
Worker self-management is a form of workplace decision-making in which the workers themselves agree on choices instead of an owner or traditional supervisor telling workers what to do, how to do it and where to do it...

 system, and remains the nation's largest shipbuilder.

Puerto Madero redevelopment

Puerto Madero
Puerto Madero
Puerto Madero, also known within the urban planning community as the Puerto Madero Waterfront, is a barrio of the Argentine capital at Buenos Aires CBD, occupying a significant portion of the Río de la Plata riverbank and representing the latest architectural trends in the city of Buenos...

, which served only ancillary port functions following the New Port's inaugural in 1925, was re-established as the Corporación Antiguo Puerto Madero (Old Puerto Madero Corporation), on November 15, 1989. Beginning around 1994, local and foreign investment led to a massive revitalization effort, recycling and refurbishing the red brick, warehouses along the west side of the docks into upscale offices, lofts, retail space, restaurants, private university campuses and five-star hotels. Most development along the eastern side consisted of new construction, as well as some of the most extensive parks in the city.

Puerto Madero has been redeveloped with international flair, drawing interest from renowned architects such as Santiago Calatrava
Santiago Calatrava
Santiago Calatrava Valls is a Spanish architect, sculptor and structural engineer whose principal office is in Zürich, Switzerland. Classed now among the elite designers of the world, he has offices in Zürich, Paris, Valencia, and New York City....

, Norman Foster
Norman Foster, Baron Foster of Thames Bank
Norman Robert Foster, Baron Foster of Thames Bank, OM is a British architect whose company maintains an international design practice, Foster + Partners....

, César Pelli
César Pelli
César Pelli is an Argentine architect known for designing some of the world's tallest buildings and other major urban landmarks. In 1991, the American Institute of Architects listed Pelli among the ten most influential living American architects...

 and Phillippe Starck, among others. Today one of the trendiest boroughs in Buenos Aires, it has become the preferred address for growing numbers of young professionals and retirees, alike. Increasing property prices have also generated interest in the area as a destination for foreign buyers, particularly those in the market for premium investment properties.

The neighborhood's road network has been entirely rebuilt, especially in the east side. The layout of the east side consists currently of three wide boulevards running east-west crossed by the east side's main street, Juana Manso Avenue. The layout is completed with some other avenues and minor streets, running both east-west and north-south, and by several pedestrianised streets. The district is separated from the estuary by the Buenos Aires Ecological Reserve
Buenos Aires Ecological Reserve
Buenos Aires Ecological Reserve, Reserva Ecológica de Buenos Aires, also known as Costanera Sur Ecological Reserve, Reserva Ecológica Costenera Sur, is a tract of low land on the Río de la Plata riverbank located on the east side of the district of Puerto Madero in Buenos Aires CBD,...


Puerto Madero represents the largest wide-scale urban project in the city of Buenos Aires, currently. Having undergone an impressive revival in merely a decade, it is one of the most successful recent waterfront renewal projects in the world.