Transport restrictions introduced due to coronavirus outbreak

Further to a National Cabinet meeting on 16 March 2020, a new regulation was introduced placing several restrictions and bans on transport to and from Argentina.

Decree 274/2020 prohibits entry into Argentina by sea, air or land for 15 calendar days by non-resident foreign nationals and this timeframe may be extended or lifted by the government as deemed appropriate.

The following exceptions are relevant to the shipping sector:

  • people involved in international trade and the carriage of goods by any means (ie, sea, river, land and air);
  • the carriers and crew of corresponding vessels; and
  • people involved in medical flight operations.

These exceptions are subject to fulfilment of the national health authority’s recommendations.

Given the uncertainty about the duration of the above measures, it remains to be seen what effect they will have on the maritime industry.

According to the current regulation, there is no restriction on merchant vessels entering Argentina if they are involved in international trade irrespective of their previous port of call. However, all vessels are subject to an inspection by the health authority, which embarks and checks crews’ temperature and possible COVID19 symptoms. If a vessel is cleared by the health authority, it is entitled to proceed to berth.

Despite the regulation being crystal clear, unions from different sectors – stevedores, pilots, cargo surveyors and seafarers – are claiming that vessels with less than 14 days of navigation would have to be subject to quarantine. In particular, unions are refusing to provide services to vessels calling at Argentine ports which come from Brazil or Chile, as the navigation time usually takes between three and eight days and those countries are listed as high risk areas for COVID19.

There have been reports of cases of vessels being inspected at the Recalada pilot station (outside River Plate) while other vessels in the Paraná River were inspected up river. Despite being cleared by health authority, the refusal of unions to provide services has caused vessels being trapped in the Paraná River.