The port sector, considered the main door for foreign trade in Brazil, keeps growing with the opening of new terminals and help from private investment.
Ports are the main door for goods either arriving or leaving Brazil. Ports located along the 8,500 kilometre coastline are responsible for over 90% of Brazilian exports. In the year of 2013 alone, Brazilian ports handled 931 million tons of cargo. This number has been increasing for a while now, and the growth in 2013 was up nearly 3% in comparison to the previous year.
According to the Secretariat of Ports of the Presidency — Secretaria de Portos da Presidência da República or SEP — there are more than 160 ports currently active in Brazil. Out of these active ports, 34 are public ports administered by the Brazilian government, known as Organized Ports, or Portos Organizados in Portuguese. There are also around 128 active private ports, which are known as Terminals of Private Use — TUPs or Terminais de Uso Privado.
The Organized Ports are either operated directly by state or municipal governments, or by Dock Companies, which are joint stock companies that have the Federal Government as the majority shareholder. The Organized Ports are responsible for 36% of all the cargo handled in Brazilian ports.
On the other hand, terminals of Private Use are controlled by private companies. These ports are granted and regulated by the National Agency of Aquatic Transport, also known as ANTAQ. Around 64% of all cargo in Brazil are handled by TUPs. This type of facility is currently seen as one of the main tools of the Brazilian government to attract investments in the logistical area and to expand the Brazilian port system.
Before 2013, TUPs could only handle third-party cargo with a series of limitations. A provisional measure that became known as MP dos Portos changed this, allowing other companies to use private terminals as long as the ports’ owners received “adequate remuneration”. The restrictions existed so private ports would not directly compete with Organized Ports. That is the reason why big companies like Vale and Petrobras previously built their own ports.
The main ports
Some of the main Brazilian ports are operated by the government, including the Port of Santos, which is the largest in Latin America.
Porto de Santos
This port is considered the most important for the state of São Paulo and one of the main logistical terminals for Brazilian companies. Around 30% of all the cargo in Brazilian Organized Ports, almost 100 million tons of load are handled in this port. Also, almost 90% of São Paulo’s industrial base is located in a radius of 200 kilometres from it. Porto de Santos is administered by a Dock Company: Companhia Docas do Estado de São Paulo (Codesp).
Porto de Itaguaí
The Port of Itaguaí is located in the state of Rio de Janeiro. This port is responsible for 17% of all the cargo handled in Brazilian Organized Ports. This terminal has the operational area of 1.8 million square meters, and is one of the great exporting centres of iron ore. It is administered by Companhia Docas do Rio de Janeiro.
Porto de Paranaguá
Located in the state of Paraná, in the southern region, the Porto de Paranaguá is one of the main centres for the foreign trade of agricultural products, especially soybeans and soybean meal. Most ships anchoring in this port are from the United States, China, Japan, South Korea, and Paraguay. The Port of Paranaguá is responsible for 12% of all the cargo handled in Brazilian Organized Ports.
Porto de Rio Grande
Responsible for 6% of all the cargo that enters and leaves the Organized Ports in Brazil, Rio Grande Port is one of the main terminals of the southern region. It is administered by the state government of Rio Grande do Sul, located in the southern region, which has borders with Argentina and Uruguay. Porto de Rio Grande plays a vital role on both import and export processes. Among the exported goods there are soybeans, wheat, and rice. Among the imported goods are chemical products (which are the most imported goods), mainly from countries like Argentina, China, United States, and Morocco.
Porto de Itaqui
The Port of Itaqui is an important terminal located in the state of Maranhão, in the northeastern region. Petroleum products and fertilizers are some of the exported products in this centre, while ore and minerals arrive through this port. Around 5% of the load handled in Brazilian public ports pass through Porto de Itaqui.
The investments being made
Despite the large number and significance of ports in Brazil, many companies claim that if the infrastructure offered was better developed, international trading would happen in a greater scale.
In order to reach infrastructure improvements, different investments are being made. Some investments focus on the opening of new ports, mainly TUPs, granted by the government to private companies. Other investments aim to make logistical conditions better as a whole by promoting changes in the access of the ports and improving rail and road transportation.
According to the Secretariat of Ports of the Presidency, 18 investment projects that affect Brazilians ports, either directly or indirectly, were delivered in 2013, while an additional 19 projects have been started. Some of the highlights were improvements made on roads in the states of Bahia and Santa Catarina, as well as the extension of existing railways in the northern region.
The main strategy of the Brazilian government, though, is private investment. At the end of 2012, it was announced that BRL 54 billion would be invested in the portuary system within the next 15 years. Also, TUPs were allowed to be constructed in cities like Santos, São João da Barra, and Guarujá.
Other Terminals of Private Use are still going to be auctioned, and 2015 might have even greater advances in the investments made on the port sector. That is, at least, the expectation — and estimate — of both private and public sector.