- “Transformations in Port-Cities in Times of Globalisation/Regionalisation Process:    click here to open paper content251 kb
by    Bazan-Lopes, María | bazanlopes@yahoo.com   click here to send an email to the auther(s) of this paper
Short Outline
Ports have been under change due to external and internal factors affected particularly by technological changes and ITC applied to transportation, the increasing speed in business and trade, the logistics development, new production forms and the simultaneous privatisation and transference of large infrastructure in transport systems, which have contributed to change the international economy trade. Ports have become the new dynamic knots between the international production and the global distribution networks, and the cores of regional development.
The Rio de la Plata basin involves a large region integrated by Argentine, Uruguay, Brazil and Paraguay. The estuary of the Rio de la Plata referred to the last 450 km of the basin evolving the River Parana and River Uruguay, which means currently around 1,7 million people in Uruguay bank (40% of national population) and 17 million inhabitants in Argentine bank (44% of national population), almost 19 million in the whole port-system. The region has been historically configured confronting economic and political factors under different development models, affecting urban structures and specially the “harbour/city” relationships. The port-system has developed a “port-hierarchy” in 3 main categories: the regional ports (the prime cities, Buenos Aires and Montevideo), the secondary ports (slightly specialised and competing each other), and the subsidiary ports (serving the secondary ones).

This study inquires about the impact of globalisation/regionalisation process of Mercosur in the estuary of the Rio de la Plata basin, focusing on the spatial transformations in urban structure of the port-cities involved. The paper will contain the presentation of the theme, hypothesis, methodology and some preliminary results.

From Port-System to Port-Network?

Considering the current situation in the estuary, we stand here that the worldwide regionalisation process and the formation of Mercosur together with the market-oriented approach in port-administration and urban policies, are leading medium/secondary port-cities to play a growing role in the port development of the Rio de la Plata basin, given the downriver spread of port-functions from prime cities. In order to study the problem, it is necessary to develop a double-scale approach: the regional and the urban levels.

1. Concerning to the regional scale -the estuary-, the question is if the changes seen in the hierarchical port-system of the Rio de la Plata basin is leading to the formation of a port-network system. In such a largely heterogeneous region as the South Cone in terms of development stage and socioeconomic structure, the first consideration towards globalisation/regionalisation process was the elimination of trade barriers to increase the position in external markets and improve the competitiveness of goods and services. Regarding Mercosur , national governments have attempted to improve national and continental infrastructure facing the need of developing trunk routes to create transcontinental corridors connecting both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. The Central Corridor links the most vital economic centres passing through the estuary of the Rio de la Plata basin, where large infrastructure projects have been planned in order to avoid existing and future bottlenecks in transportation.

Considering the trade figures, there are substantive historical differences in one or other river bank currently changing. The Argentinian foreign trade is related in the first place to the ship transport and secondly by truck. In Uruguay, the foreign trade is leaded by ship transport as a regional “pass-by” road articulated to truck transport. The deregulation, reorganisation and privatisation processes in both river banks since 1992, opened the port-system to private sector and have created freeports in the area.

However it seems that the economic integration process of Mercosur supported by trade liberalisation and large investments in infrastructure and communication, is insufficient to overcome the market-oriented logics of resources allocation at port administration level. The regional port development seems to lead to the accelerated growth of medium/secondary ports by changing roles. The question is, if through new regional large infrastructure in transportation systems together with the renewal of old harbours and the appearance of new ones, can a mutually-supportive high-specialised port-network be realised.

2. Concerning to the urban scale –the port-cities-, the question is if the formation of a high-specialised port-network will contribute to the urban development in middle/secondary port-cities, or on the contrary it will be another matter of constraints for the achievement of spatial and social objectives of the urban policies. In this level, we consider preliminarily 2 middle/secondary port-cities in the estuary: La Plata and Rosario.

The new port development in the estuary seems to come back on the original “port vocation” of cities through urban policies to reinforce the role of port functions in urban development. The port of La Plata was created in 1890 as the development basis of the city recently founded. It works since 1925 with oil and by-products, metal-mechanic and shipbuilding industry. The Port Regulator Plan intends to develop it as a multi-purpose and high-technical port and in 1997, the freeport was created, extending the urban area to its boundaries with new services and infrastructure. In Rosario, the port historically handles bulk cargoes mainly oriented to grain export and by-products (decreasing and moving to private ports) and oil and by-products (increasing). The port complex evolves different harbours oriented to multipurpose and transhipment port of export/import under a master plan to relocate the container terminals at 4 km from the city, which developement has extended the urban area along the River Parana.

On the whole, it seems that the development of new functions, technologies and infrastructure in the high-specialisation process in old harbours, have contributed to the accelerated urban growth of medium/secondary port-cities through new urban developments.

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