Chinese demand boosts Brazilian pulp exports and tug operations

  • 13/09/2022
  • 4 minutes

China’s thirst for paper and pulp has increased maritime trade and tug operations in Brazilian ports.

One of the largest tugboat owners in Brazil, Wilson Sons, reported increased ship manoeuvres in four ports in the nation, driven mainly by rising demand in China.

The largest integrated operators of port and maritime logistics in Brazil said its fleets of tugboats operating in the ports of Santos, Barra do Riacho, Rio Grande and Itaqui are busier than ever.

Brazil is the world’s leading exporter of pulp and the second-largest producer. Its pulp production and exports were not significantly affected by the global Covid-19 pandemic and have grown since 2020. China purchases more than 40% of the pulp exported by Brazil, and the US takes another 15%.

In 2022, new pulp clients, and continuing support of other long-term clients, has led Wilson Sons to grow its harbour towage for Brazilian pulp exporting ships.

In 2020 and 2021, Brazil exported 17M tonnes of pulp and paper, with China as the main destination, said Wilson Sons. “This year, this figure should reach 20M and, in 2023, even more positive results are expected,” the company added.

Wilson Sons has been meeting this increasing demand by investing in its large fleet of tugboats.

Santos, in Vitória state, receives most of the pulp to be exported. Exports from the ports of Santos and Barra do Riacho, also in Vitória, account for nearly 70% of the total volume of pulp exported per year from Brazil. Mato Grosso do Sul is the leading producer in the mid-west of Brazil, and sends out pulp cargo through these ports.

“Over the past two years, the ports of São Paulo and Espírito Santo accounted for 30% and 35%, respectively,” said Wilson Sons.

In 2022, however, the volume exported through Santos has increased considerably.

“The port of Santos alone was responsible for more than 40% of the total volume of pulp exported in Brazil in the first half of the year,” said Wilson Sons.

This growth is related to expanding cargo distribution infrastructure, as two of the main pulp producers own export terminals at the port.

“The Port of Itaqui has also been growing in this sector, especially with the recent start-up of Berth 99, built to expand the pulp export capacity in the region,” said Wilson Sons.

This port has a powerful, modern Wilson Sons tugboat fleet dedicated to operations in the ports of São Luís, including the new tug WS Centaurus, the most powerful to operate in Brazil, which serves this region.