Lack of Dredging Poses Obstacles for Development of Brazilian Water Transportation System

Brazil has about 26,000 miles (42,000 kilometers) of navigable waterways, but less than half of it – about 11,800 miles – is actually usable, according to data from the nation’s Ministry of Transports, Ports and Civil Aviation (MTPAC). Last year, Brazil moved more than 57.3 million tons of cargos through its waterways, according to port authority ANTAQ.

Despite the extensive waterways, Brazil seems to “waste” the potential it has for water transportation, a recent report by the National Confederation of Transports (CNT) said.

“As a result, it misses the benefits of using the (water transportation system), such as the reduced environmental impact it offers, as well as the diminished flow of trucks in the local roads for long-distance routes,” CNT said, adding one vessel can move the transportation capacity of 58 trucks.
The report said dredging in Brazil is key for the country to better use its waterways.

However, the transports confederation noted dredging isn’t done with the proper frequency in certain regions, according to a CNT research.

Madeira River
The Madeira River, a 1.4 million-square-meter affluent located between Brazil’s north states of Amazonas and Rondônia, had resumed a BRL 68.7 million ($17.5 million) dredging project, which was awarded to a consortium made up of JEED Engenharia and EPC Construções.
The two-company consortium will dredge the Madeira River, one of the biggest tributaries of the Amazon, in a five-year timeframe.
However, dredging at the Madeira River hasn’t always been constant, according to CNT.

In 2016, navigation at the affluent was interrupted for four months, as a result of a drought that reduced water levels and increased sediments accumulation.

The Brazilian government then hired a company to dredge the river, but once again, in November 2017, work halted as the rainy season began and the river water levels rose.

Since then, the JEED Engenharia-EPC Construções consortium was contracted to keep constant dredging in the river for five years.
Tietê-Paraná Waterway

Another waterway also lacking proper dredging is the Tietê-Paraná, which transports grains and other cargos from Mato Grosso do Sul state to Paraná and São Paulo states.

It moved about 8.9 million tons of products, according to CNT.
“The waterway, which has about 776.7 ‘navigable’ miles, halted (transportation) during 2014 and 2015 due to drought issues,” the CNT report noted.
Due to the recent drought issues, Brazil’s Department of Transports Infrastructure (DNIT) along with the São Paulo state Water Department (DHSP) signed a commitment letter to remove about 700,000 cubic meters (915,565 cubic yards) of rocks in a BRL 200 million ($51.75 million US) contract, whose works started in February 2017.

According to CNT, only 3 percent of the project is complete but is expected to be finished by 2019.
“Navigation at the Tietê-Paraná river is key for cargo transportation logistics in the country,” Evandro Torquato Sobrado, DHSP director, said in a statement.

Tocantins River
The CNT analysis also noted the Tocantins River needs rock and sediment removal to guarantee its navigability. The Tocantins River is the central fluvial artery of Brazil, running from south to north in a 2,450-kilometer (1,522-mile) range.

It’s seen as an important waterway to transport Brazil’s iron ore and grains from the country’s Midwest region to the north part of Latin America’s largest economy, in the state of Pará.

In 2016, DTA Engenharia won a BRL 563.5 million ($145.7 million US) contract to remove rocks in a 26.7-mile long area in the state of Pará.
The rocky area, also known as Pedral do Lourenço, prevents vessels from using the waterway in periods of low waters, between September and November. It is located between the Bogeá Island and the city of Santa Terezinha do Tauri, both located in the state of Pará.

Once the rocks are removed, it will allow the Tocantins River to achieve increased navigability. It will also make it easier for inter-state cargo transportation within the states of Pará, Maranhão, Tocantins, Goiás and Mato Grosso.

DTA is also expected to expand the river’s channel to a 140-meter (459-foot) width.

DTA disputed dredging at the massive Port of Santos. It didn’t win the tender, but tried to appeal a decision that awarded the project to EEL Infraestruturas.

According to DNIT data, both the basic and executive project for the initiative should be completed by December this year. Then, works should be done by 2021.

The Brazilian Ministry of Transports, Ports and Civil Aviation told IDR it has been acting to improve navigability at the Brazilian waterways, including the removal of rocks at Pedra de Lourenço, in the state of Pará.

“It will allow permanent navigation at the Tocantins River,” it said in a statement.

As for maritime-related dredging, the ministry said dredging is often awarded under public tenders, which are subject to legal setbacks.
“This is part of the tendering process. What we can do is to seek the perfecting of processes to reduce eventual questioning in court.”
The Ministry of Transports noted it “successfully” concluded two maritime dredging projects in the ports of Maceió and Fortaleza last year.
The ministry argued it has also been “structuring” actions including decrees to extend the process of awarding dredging contracts.

As a result of a working group that discussed alternatives for dredging the massive Port of Santos, the Brazilian government concluded it would be best to privatize dredging at the port of Santos.

Historically, the Brazilian government has been responsible for dredging the Port of Santos. But a growing public deficit in recent years helped the government support the idea of privatizing dredging at the port of Santos.

“Soon we will commence studies for structuring such a (dredging) concession,” the ministry said.