Discover the Port of Aratu and the perspectives for the next years

  • 08/12/2020
  • 11 minutes

Even in scenarios so uncertain globally, such as during the Covid-19 pandemic, Brazilian ports continue to rely on technology, efficiency and intelligence to maintain their growth. The Port of Aratu, in Bahia, is one such example.

To get deeper into the current and future prospects of this complex, we invited Ludwig Silva, a professional in the maritime area for 10 years and Regional Operations Coordinator at Wilson Sons, since March 2018.

See the actions that the port has been taking to go through such a difficult time and why the region is optimistic about its continuous development in the coming years. Keep reading!

The Port of Aratu in numbers

Before talking about the future, we need to start by understanding the present. Especially the importance of the Port of Aratu for Bahia and Brazil in recent years.

According to Codeba, the Aratu-Candeias complex (opened in 1975) went through 2019 with 6.3 million tons of cargo handled. There were 547 cargo ships moored in the period. It is, by far, the port with the best result in terms of volume of operation in the state of Bahia.

Aratu stands out for three main types of goods handled:

  • solid bulk (such as manganese, coal and fertilizers);
  • liquid bulk (such as methanol, fuels, benzene and naphtha);
  • gaseous products (such as Propene, Butadiene, Ethane etc.).

The aforementioned products are handled through 3 main piers, TPG (gaseous products and petrochemical naphtha), TGL North and South, where liquid cargo is handled, and TGS North, South and II new pier, where solid bulk is handled.

The Gas Pier has a peculiarity, as it was adapted in the late 1990s to receive ships of petrochemical naphtha, the main raw material of the Petrochemical Complex, handling an average of 1 million tons per year.

The gaseous terminal is also a distinguishing feature of the port. The structure, according to Ludwig, is a partnership with another company located in the state.

“The gas terminal has a very specific use, practically dedicated to handling gaseous products and raw materials from Braskem. It is through it that the company receives this input (ethane and naphtha) and part of its exports flows”, he says.

Due to its relationship with the state (we will talk about this below), the Port of Aratu has become an important structure for the country.

The strength of the port during a time of crisis

Nothing demonstrates the strength of an entity better than the way it deals with moments of crisis. The capacity of the Port of Aratu during the Covid-19 epidemic proves its willingness to continue to grow.

Since the first cases in Brazil, the port began to adopt important measures to prevent the proliferation of the disease. “There was the implementation of new protocols determined by the port and health authorities and other actors in the operation of the equipment,” says the coordinator.

The important thing, at the moment, is to go through this difficult phase, not least because there is still no way to assess the real impact of this crisis on the port’s development. Ludwig gives us a better overview of the topic.

“It is still too early to determine the real impact on movements in the ports of Bahia. Some sectors suffer more in the domestic market and end up turning to export”, he comments.

What the expert points out is that the consequences vary a lot, according to the nature of the business: “while the consumption of some items has dropped significantly, others have become more in demand”.

Ludwig adds that, with the significant appreciation of the dollar against the real, exports of agricultural products have increased significantly. “On the other hand, we have seen a drop in fuel imports.“

There is still no official data for the first quarter, but the tendency is that the increase in exports will compensate for the decrease in imports, in this first moment.

The concession of parts of Aratu and its development

The port of Aratu is of strategic importance for the economy of the state of Bahia, it is through it that the import and export cargos that drive the petrochemical complex of Camaçari, the largest pole in Brazil, are operated. 

 “Given the relevance of the port of Aratu for various segments of the Bahian industry, it is necessary that new investments are made to increase the speed of loading and unloading operations and, thus, attract new investments and business to the State. In fact, very little public investment has been made in the port in recent years, and plans for its privatization by December 2020 have been announced.”, points out Ludwig.

In March, the first feasibility studies for the concession of terminals at the port were sent to the TCU. Even if the pandemic delays the process, the expectation is that it will happen soon.

But Aratu does not wait to grow. There are already several technologies and improvements being implemented in its routine. “The products are moved through pipelines and follow strict safety standards. The ISPS Code was also implemented in the port of Aratu, which regulates access control to the port area according to international rules”, comments Ludwig.

One of the highlights is the security at the liquid and gas terminal. “The products are moved through pipelines and follow strict safety standards. Including the ISPS Code, with access control to the port area in accordance with international rules”, comments Ludwig.

In the area of solid bulk, safety and control procedures of the handled cargos are also applied, either to the bonded warehouses or directly to the trucks that move the goods. 

Wilson Sons thinks even more ahead, according to the regional coordinator, the company already has a partnership with Aratu to develop studies related to the dynamic draft to increase its efficiency. They are investments in technology and Artificial Intelligence for port management.

The positive impact of the Port of Aratu in the region

Looking at the recent past, we can understand how a port of this magnitude can, in the future, influence the development of an entire region. It is organic growth, mainly due to the relationship between companies and the need to use the port.

Braskem, which we have already mentioned, is an example of a company whose operation has a strong relationship with the port of Aratu. Another example indicated by the Wilson Sons coordinator was the arrival of Ford in Bahia.

“There was a great investment in improvements in access to the port of Aratu when Ford was installed in Bahia, since the cars are handled from there”, he explains. These are better accesses, new investments in infrastructure and a natural development of the State.

Regarding the port’s growth, Ludwig understands that the privatization process conducted by the Federal Government will be very important, believing that the entry of the private sector can increase investments, expanding and modernizing the port and its assets.       

However, he has a vision of what needs to be improved: “with regard to the port of Aratu, the solid bulk pier needs modernization of port equipment. For liquid bulk, the greatest demand is for new mooring berths.”

This is the most important step for growth. Reinforce strengths and invest in solving weaknesses.

Taking into account the influence of the Port of Aratu for Bahia and Brazil, it is difficult to bet against its success. With stability in times of crisis and preparing for bigger flights, the complex has everything to be even more prominent in the future.

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