Air transportation has developed rapidly since World War II. The increase is particularly significant with respect to passenger traffic but applies less to the handling of bulky freight.
Each country has its own system of internal air services, operated until the late 1980s chiefly by government-owned or by heavily subsidized private companies. While several governments still operate an international carrier, privatization in the airline industry has spread to internal carriers. All the South American capitals and most of the large cities are linked by direct air services to the major traffic centres of the United States and Europe. Domestic traffic links have expanded extensively since the late 1970s, when “short take-off” jets were introduced into service.
Sea transportation has long been a vital component of the transport systems of South American countries.
The great majority of imports and exports to and from the continent moves by ship. South America has a number of outstanding natural harbours, such as Rio de Janeiro, Salvador, Montevideo, and Valparaíso, along with numerous improved ports and roadsteads, including Buenos Aires, Callao, and Barranquilla. Many of these port facilities had degenerated significantly by the 1960s, to the point that some of the region’s largest ports were blacklisted by insurers and shipping companies. Since the early 1970s, many of these ports have undergone extensive renovation and modernization, including the installation of containerization facilities.
Several countries, such as Chile and Brazil, are making a determined effort to develop and enlarge their national merchant marines.
This effort is meant partly to arrest earlier trends of having their trade carried by ships from outside the region and partly to promote regional integration and improve the national balance of payments.
There are two inland waterway systems of international importance, the Paraguay-Uruguay basin (which includes territory in four countries) and the Amazon basin (six countries). Each has several thousand miles of navigable waterways. Furthermore, there are three other minor systems: the Magdalena in Colombia, the Orinoco in Venezuela, and the São Francisco in Brazil. The remaining rivers are unsuitable for navigation. There are drawbacks to using some inland waterways, including dry seasons, the direction of water flow, motionless current, and difficult rapids. In general, the volume of traffic on the waterways of South America is relatively small, and the prospects for increasing it are limited. Britannica "South America" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia
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