Season 2 – Episode 08: The Port of Buenos Aires

This episode comes via special request from a listener, and is the first engineering project of its kind on the podcast: The Port of Buenos Aires. 

Being the first port on the podcast we get the opportunity not just to discover the history of the project itself but also to learn about the complex multidisciplinary field of port engineering. This field requires a wide array of expertise ranging from naval architecture and the hydrodynamics of ships to geotechnical engineering, record keeping, security, navigation, logistics, and much more. 

Located in the capital of Argentina, the Port of Buenos Aires handles as much as 85% of the cargo shipped into the country today. However getting to this point the project had to work through a great deal of bad luck and unfortunate timing. When Buenos Aires was first established as a port city by the Spanish back in 1580, the water level along the coastline required passengers and goods to be transferred from larger ships to smaller ships and then brought to shore. 

Nearly 3 centuries later in 1868 the Argentine congress commissioned technical studies to build a more modern port in order to support more modern trade. As with many projects, this was held up by internal politics for a full 3 years, but eventually a pier was built that stretched out into the water so smaller ships could dock there, a method that is still seen around the world particularly in tourist destinations. In 1884 the design of a major 4 dock complex would be started by Sir John Hawkshaw, the former president of the UK’s Institute of Civil Engineers. The first of these 4 docks would be completed in 1888 and just two years later Argentina would be hit by The Panic, a financial crisis resulting from a London bank facing bankruptcy as a result of taking on risk on poor investments in Argentina. While ultimately Argentina was able to recover from The Panic it would severely delay the construction of the port, stretching out the completion of the project to 1897.

The turn of the 20th century was sa time of rapid advancement and quick progress, which unfortuantely meant the port would quickly be obsolete for servicing new larger ships and it had completely reached capacity by 1907. Plans for new docks would be approved in 1911 but these plans were also severely delayed, this time by the first World War. These expansions were finally completed fifteen years later in 1926, and those expansions are largely how the port remains today. 


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Music by: John Julius –

Edited by: Astronomic Audio

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