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Published: 15 November 2008
New Brazilian port laws
Owners of the controversial Portonave box facility in Navegantes, Brazil breathed half a sigh of relief and half a sigh of resignation as President Luis Lula of Brazil signed into law a new decree that should clarify regulations in the South American country regarding building new port terminals
The decree dictates that all new port developments in Brazil, even on “greenfield” and/or private sites, must firstly go through a public tender process under the auspices of Antaq, the government agency for waterborne transport. Lula says it could bring some US$10B of investment into Brazil's ports over the next five years.
But as Carlo Botarelli, the president of Portonave shareholder Triunfo, argued, there will still be many developers and terminal operating companies – including APM Terminals, ICTSI and Terminal Link (the stevedoring arm of CMA CGM) – that would have preferred to provide purely private container facilities – on greenfield sites - to help plug the capacity crunch in Brazil’s congested port system.
“It is somewhat bitter-sweet for us,” Botarelli explained: “On the one side we have been granted entry to an exclusive club of bona fide container terminals, but on the other hand, as Triunfo, we have bought land in the Santos area for development as port terminals and now we don’t know what to do with it. We had plans for another container terminal.
“I think that, as it stands, the new decree will seriously hinder plans by international and national Brazilian players to invest further large sums into Brazil’s port infrastructure.”
Part of the “sweet feeling” for Botarelli is the fact that the legislation will not, as many feared, be retrospective, and so Portonave will not be punished for exploiting the previous loophole, and - very good news for the Hamburg Süd group – the Itapoá project backed and partially funded by the German carrier can proceed as well, as can the Embraport project in Santos. This entails the development of a seven-berth, multi-purpose port complex, including a 350,000 TEU capacity container terminal, costing around US$150M.
However, Antonio Carlos Sepulveda, operations director of Santos Brasil, disagrees with that prognosis. Santos Brasil, the biggest container terminal operator in South America, has been the most vociferous critic of Portonave.
“By going through the federal government instead of the port authorities,” said Sepulveda, “the development procedures should speed up considerably. I personally feel that the new decree has made the situation much clearer and I think we have a much better environment now for more investment into Brazilian ports.”
Throughout this year there has been a major debate (much of it covered by WorldCargo News) regarding the status of Portonave. Antaq originally gave the authorisation for the greenfield project (across the River Itajaí-Acu from the existing port of Itajaí) to go ahead as a private terminal.
However, the critics, led by Abratec (the Assocation of Brazilian box terminal operators in public ports), said that Portonave did not have “sufficient proprietary cargo” to justify the status of private terminal and was therefore breaking the law.
Two port projects that may not be able to proceed under the new regime are the US$1.5B Peruibe port project, just outside the port of Santos, backed by billionaire Eike Batista, and the US$500M Ponta da Poca project just outside Paranaguá.