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Published: 29 November 2008
Floods knock out Port of Itajaí
The Brazilian port has been devastated by flash floods. Ironically, the controversial PortoNave container terminal, on the other side of the river, has been the least affected facility
Brazil’s President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva has visited the flood stricken port of Itajaí to see for himself the damage caused by floods that have now taken the lives of 99 people in the state of Santa Catarina (and the numbers and extent of the damage are rising almost by the hour).
Reports suggest that 12 people have perished in the floods in the port city itself, and the raging torrent of the River Itajaí -Acu – flowing at more than 24 kmh when the average is normallya round 2 kmh – have destroyed much of the infrastructure of the country’s number two port for containers.
Lula has declared Itajaí and the state of Santa Catarina a disaster zone and met the president of Itajaí Port Authority (API) Arnaldo Schmitt to discuss rescue and various reconstruction plans, and how best to divert federal resources to the port.
Ports Minister Pedro Brito has sent a special task force of military and civilian engineers to Itaja to work out the best way to repair damages and get the port open as soon as possible. Latest news is that Lula has promised at least US$150M to reconstruct the port.
Two of the port’s three berths have been completely destroyed and the port is now shut to all commercial traffic. In the state of Santa Catarina some 76,000 people are homeless and 160,000 homes are still without power supplies, according to the state energy company Celesc.
API spokeswoman Patrícia Barcelos told WorldCargo News: “We had 90% of the city of Itajaí under 2m of water, it’s an absolute catastrophe. It has barely stopped raining for two months and we are supposed to be entering the summer period.
“The number one Berth has been washed away by the river, as has half of number three berth. We think number four berth is intact but cant get the divers down to inspect until the water flow reduces.”
The APM Terminals’ container terminal in Itajaí, Teconvi, has suffered very heavy damage with Pier One mostly disappearing into the river torrent. However, no personnel were hurt.
Teconvi’s commercial manager Patrício Júnior said: “The port of Itajaí will receive emergency funding for dredging and that will allow us to clear the river and hopefully start dredging berth zero. Dredging is of the utmost priority and works are expected to be finished only by mid December.” Berth zero is a new berth that had almost entered into service for Teconvi.
With many quay and paved back-up areas at the port seriously damaged, carriers such as Maersk Line, CMA CGM and Hamburg Süd are seeking alternative ports of call, including Santos, Rio Grande and Paranaguá. However, many of these “alternatives”are already seriously congested. The port of São Francisco do Sul – some 60 km away from Itajaí- has also been closed due to the weather but may open within the next few days, according to API officials.
Ironically, the controversial Portonave facility – just a short hop across the river from Itajaí in Navegantes – has escaped from the calamity relatively unscathed and could open for business within a week or two once the strong currents recede and a link road to the terminal is re-opened.
Henrik Simon, the director of reefer services for Hamburg Süd, ECSA trades, said: “The whole shipping community of Brazil is in a state of shock. Our 10 employees in Itajaí are safe but are homeless. I have never seen anything like this in 20 years of working in Brazil.
"With so much silting up, it will take at least three weeks to get dredging arranged. In the meantime we are diverting to Paranaguá.”
Bathometric tests carried out on 28th November show that the quantity of sand has reduced the depth of the channel from 10 metres down to just 7m.