Bulk carriers in Argentina may be forced to reduce loads by 40% by the end of September or early October due to low water levels on the Paraná River, the general manager of the Chamber of Port and Maritime Activity told AgriCensus.

If the river conditions continued to deteriorate as expected, Handymax ships – that normally carry 35,000-40,000 tonnes – would probably load 17,000-18,000 tonnes less due to the low water levels by that time, Guillermo Wade was quoted as saying in the 28 July report.

For Panamax vessels, with a capacity of up to 70,000 tonnes, ships could be loading up to 21,000 tonnes less volume, he said.

Bulk carriers were currently loading 21% less grain at Rosario ports due to low water levels, according to Wade.

Carriers that were unable to complete grain loads at Rosario ports had to go to Necochea or Bahia Blanca terminals, in the south of Buenos Aires Province, or to ports in the south of Brazil to complete loads, generating higher costs for shipping companies, the report said.

Low water levels on the Paraná could lead to losses of US$315M for the Argentine agro industrial sector between March and August 2021, according to a study by the Rosario Grain Exchange (BCR).

Last year, Argentina’s Rosario export hub handled 70% of all grain exports, as well as 96% of all meals and 96% of all vegetable oils, while the Paraná was the key waterway linking the hub to global export markets, AgriCensus wrote.

Water levels near Rosario are currently around 0.04m versus the historical average of 3.22m for July, according to the latest available data from Argentina’s national water institute (INA) the report said.

Those levels were only expected to continue to decline with no improvements in water levels expected for the next three months based on weather forecasts, according to the INA.

On 26 July, the Argentine government had declared a state of hydric emergency lasting for a period of 180 days, according to an earlier AgriCensus report, when the government would be adopting measures to mitigate the severe situation caused by the Paraná’s low water levels.