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Dredging at Port of Itajaí becomes million-dollar problem, spills over into Brasilia

Posted on April 3, 2024

An extraordinary meeting hosted by the National Secretariat of Ports this week in Brasília aims to tackle a substantial deadlock at the Port of Itajaí: the shortage of funds jeopardizing essential dredging operations vital for one of the country’s largest port complexes.

The current debt stands at R$20 million, with insufficient resources to sustain the ongoing measures taken by the Dutch multinational, Van Oord. Seeking assistance to make ends meet, the port authorities will endeavor to persuade the National Port Secretariat to share the financial burden.

The primary concern is that the lack of dredging could compromise the entire operation of the Port Complex, encompassing not only the Port of Itajaí but also other terminals along the Itajaí-Açu River and Portonave in Navegantes. Portonave is the largest container terminal in the state and the second largest in Brazil.

The river’s depth plays a critical role in determining the draft of vessels entering the ports – essentially, the size and cargo capacity of ships arriving at Itajaí and Navegantes.

The ongoing dredging operations are financed through what’s known as “table 1” funds, resources received by the Port Authority from the private sector for terminal operations. Since the regular lease contract expired in December 2022, vessel traffic and income have plunged.

With the temporary operating contract signed with Mada Araújo, it was expected that the port would have started to receive ships with containers by now. However, it is now believed that vessels won’t start coming at least until May. The company continues to seek operating licenses and has not yet announced any regular ship lines to Itajaí – which increases concerns about the resources to maintain waterway access in good conditions.

Permanent dredging is indispensable for a Port Complex where the access channel and ship maneuvering area are riverine and susceptible to erosion.

Last week, the Itajaí Entities Council Movement, comprising representatives from various local economic sectors, penned a letter to municipal and state authorities urging action on dredging. This call to action was endorsed by Facisc.


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