Although they are not uniform in their geographical distribution, many rivers are a real treasure for Argentina, such is their natural importance and that which they can achieve with human work. The Plata and a very long stretch of the course of its main tributaries form a navigable system that does not find the same in many countries. From the first moment of Argentine history, these rivers facilitated the exploration and conquest of the interior of the continent then served for the ever increasing traffic, despite some difficulties deriving from the political or economic system applied by this or that Spanish, Argentine or Paraguayan. Apart from the river system of the Plata, the other Argentine rivers, despite their number and their length on the map, are only exceptionally navigable,
On the other hand, the Plata estuary, conveniently dredged, is a real sea and its waters are crossed by most of the ships that touch the Argentine ports. On the right bank or Argentina are the large ports of Buenos Aires and La Plata. The first sits at the head of all the others for comfort, extension and movement; more than half of Argentina’s foreign trade goes to this port of world importance. In recent times it has had a good demonstration of its ability and the undeniable progress of the country with the destination to the Plata line of vapors, such as: the Julius Caesar, the Saturnia, the Cap Arcona, the Augustus and others who honor the various shipping companies, among which the Italians occupy an envied place.
The Uruguay River, in its lower course, south of the Salto Grande, is navigable for medium-sized vessels, as vessels from 9 to 11 feet of draft can reach Concordia. On both shores there are ports and cities of some importance, Argentine and Uruguayan. On the right bank or nearby, the ports of Gualeguaychú, Concepción, Colania and Concordia are used. To the north of the Salto Grande, navigation becomes difficult, and the ports of Monte Caseros, Paso de los Libres, Alvear, Santo Tomé and San Javier are of little importance; with floods, numerous jangadas are carried.
Superior to Uruguay is the Paraná for its length, range, depth and, therefore, for navigability. Going up its course and that of its magnificent tributary, Paraguay, you can sail from the mouth to the Matto Grosso, near the source, in the heart of the continent.
Up to Santa Fe, approximately 580 km. from the port of Buenos Aires, overseas navigation can arrive, thanks to the works done in recent times; therefore a large part of Argentina, populated and active, has a magnificent waterway of a maritime character that puts it in direct communication with the world. Ports of various local or interprovincial importance, are located on the main course or on some lateral arm; major works have been carried out or are in progress; or floating boats are used to avoid the inconveniences of water level changes. On the right are: Campana, Zárate, Baradero, San Nicolás, Villa Constitución, Rosario, Santa Fe and Barranqueras.
The main one is that of Rosario, the second city of the Republic: its traffic is surpassed only by that of Buenos Aires; can receive ships that fish m. 6.40 all year, and m. 7.52 for eight months. On the left are: Ibicuy (joined to Zárate by a ferry – boat), Puerto Ruiz, Diamante, Paraná, La Paz, Esquina, Goya, Bella Vista, Empedrado and Corrientes. After this last port, up to the Guira waterfall, navigation is more difficult, particularly for the Salto di Apipé; but since 1920, the bottom rock has been blown up in the Carayá pass. There is regular navigation done by small ships; timber is usually transported by means of Jangadas ; the main port is that of Posadas, joined to Villa Encarnación with a ferry – boat. For Argentina 2005, please check ehealthfacts.org.
Navigation in Paraguay is more regular, and ships of 2.13 m can reach Asunción all year round. Of all the right tributaries of Paraná and Paraguay, the only navigable is the Bermejo, which however requires continuous surveillance for the difference in range, for the trees that fall into the bed and for some modification of the course, up to km. 250 ships of m. 2.13 for six months; you navigate further up, up to km. 642 (Teuco), with ships of m. 0.61 all year round, and 1.52m for six months; the usefulness of this service does not compensate for the expenses, but the government supports it as an excellent population factor in that almost uninhabited area.
According to the calculation of Soria, the Republic has 4195 km. of maritime coasts which, for geographical and historical reasons, have not so far reached the importance of the river area in terms of traffic. The best part that is making continuous progress is the northern one (province of Buenos Aires). Here is the large port under construction of the seaside town of Mar del Plata; it will be used for merchant and warships, which may be of large tonnage, as demonstrated in 1925 by receiving the British battleship Repulse. At the mouth of the Quequén is the port of the same name.
In the inner part of the great corner of Bahía Blanca and at different distances from the city of this name, a real series of ports has been built especially for the export of cereals so some have large elevators and allow the operations of large ships. They belong to the government or to private companies, and are: Arroyo Pareja, Puerto Belgrano (military), Ingeniero White, Galván and Cuatreros.
Further south is San Blas and the river port of Patagones which is hampered by the nature of the mouth of the Río Negro, for which numerous navigation projects have been made. The ports of the Patagonian coast are many, but their movement is scarce, since their hinterland is poor; but, when the railway reaches the Cordillera and stimulates the production of that fertile region, the progress of those ports will be sure. The location depends on regional or local causes and the works done or planned vary greatly from port to port. That of Comodoro Rivadavia is recent and active for the transport of oil. Characteristic of Patagonia is the strong tide; for example, the port of San Antonio Ceste allows ships to enter or exit only with the flow, because with the ebb it remains without water. Other ports are: Puerto Madryn, Puerto Deseado San Julian, Santa Cruz and Gallegos. The goods loaded consists almost exclusively of products from sheep farming. In Tierra del Fuego are Río Grande and Ushuaia, the southernmost of all Argentine ports.
Various projects have been made for inland navigation, which propose both to use several of the numerous existing rivers, and to dig canals across the immense plains, but so far the problem has not been solved.
Politically Argentina was federal, but commercially it is unitary and this is demonstrated by comparing the activity of its ports. Indeed, the proportional value of Argentina’s export through the various ports is given by the following figures:
But, if several ports export in large quantities the products of their area of influence, while always leaving the first undisputed place to that of Buenos Aires, as regards imports, the percentage changes extraordinarily, making Buenos Aires, practically, the single distribution market for imported goods. Here is the statistic, for the same period:
The same happens for passengers too: immigration uses almost only the port of Buenos Aires and all the attempts made to change this state of affairs so far have not been successful.