In cases of vessels meeting at a river bend or wherever it may be prudent for one vessel to stand on and the other to give way, the rule of the vessel stemming the current giving way applies unless otherwise dictated by circumstances such as cases where one vessel is loaded and the other is in ballast or by standing instructions laid down by the proper authority.
Masters should remember that pilots, on their behalf, are in communication throughout the passage with the local Coastguard system known as CONTRASE and are required to report the vessels’ position as detailed elsewhere (see CONTRASE). They can therefore, if required, obtain advance information as to what other vessels are in the vicinity or approaching. On river passages, when passing berths, vessels are required to reduce speed to 6 knots.
Furthermore and as per IMO regulations in force ships are obliged to have their AIS system in operation which permits vessels to be tracked down any time by the authority as well as by other vessels in the area.
From time to time channels may be closed by the Coastguard due to fog or bad weather, as well as if collisions occur or dredgers are working. In the latter case dredgers normally open up at set times to allow vessels to pass. Main channels (usually Recalada to Buenos Aires and vice versa) may be temporarily closed to general traffic to permit Naval ships or large passenger vessels to transit without interference. In such cases permission requesting the closing of the channel to other shipping is made to Coastguard who will, if the request is granted, publish the times of closure usually 24 hours beforehand. Any agent may request channel closure if special circumstances so warrant.
NOTE: Utmost care should be exercised when overtaking or meeting other vessels, operating dredgers, etc. in narrow channels in order to avoid ‘bank’ and ‘interaction’ effects on either vessels’ steerage or behavior. Appropriate signals, as per domestic or international COLREGS, should be displayed or effected with suitable timing. Pilots will instruct Master or the officer of the watch as to local signals.
Navigation within marked/buoyed channels is forbidden when visibility is such that, if of abreast from a buoy or beacon, the following ones cannot be sighted if the distance between them is 1000 m or less. Penalties exist regarding breaches or infringement of standing regulations in connection with navigation of ships within territorial waters. For details please refer to the REGINAVE which from time to time, is updated as to actual amount of fines liable to be levied.
As per Coastguard Ordinance 6/87 those vessels entering or departing to/from ports of Buenos Aires, Bahía Blanca or channels/estuary of Rio de la Plata/Paraná/Bahía Blanca, must do so with positive draft both fore and aft. It should be noted that the unsighted stretch of water immediately forward of the bow, as seen from the bridge, may be not more than 2 ships lengths or 500 meters, whichever is less. If any doubt exists as to the visibility immediately forward of the bow the pilot must inform the Coastguard officer clearing the vessel of this fact.
Somewhat ambiguously the regulation goes on to say: “Vessels may not sail down by the head unless they can guarantee good steerage”. In case a vessel proceeds with a negative trim, this fact must be logged and mentioned on the entry/departure General Declaration (port clearing documentation).
Whilst in port all foreign ships are to fly the Argentine flag from the highest yard arm or masthead from sunrise to sunset. In turn they must fly their own National colors from the ensign staff.
Closure of ports
The Coastguard may order a port closed due to safety reasons, force majeure or to maintain public order. If reason of closure is due to collisions or groundings the Coastguard shall set up transitory traffic rules to meet such contingencies.
From time to time, vessels may be prevented from sailing due to the closing of the port due to bad weather. In these cases, Agents should apply to the appropriate port administration for the cancellation of dock dues for the period that the port is closed. The port of Necochea being closed due to swell on the bar is the most important example of this kind.
Speed in ports, channels and rivers
Vessels operating in the proximity of open ports, maneuvering close to quays or where other vessels and or barges are operating must reduce their speed to not more than 6 knots or as per specific Coastguard regulations. As per O.M. # 1/74, speed between kms 1 and 15, access to Port of Buenos Aires, is limited to 14 km/h (7,5 knots).
Change of ballast
In compliance with PNA Prefectura Naval (Argentine Coastg Guard) Ordinance 7/98 which obliges all vessels bound for the River Plate to change all ballast water at sea prior arrival and enter this event in ship’s log book, a Ballast Water Reporting Form has to be filled out by Masters and be forwarded to the agent 72 hours in advance to enable them submit the required information to the Authority Coastguard as one of the unavoidable condition to prove compliance with the mentioned ordinance and consequently obtain Free Pratique.