The world’s fifth-largest country by area, Brazil has a coastline of nearly 7,500 kilometres. Officially known as the Federative Republic of Brazil, the largest country in South America and Latin America has a vast population of over 211 million people.
Aside from Ecuador and Chile, Brazil borders all countries in South America and covers almost half of the entire continent.
While it covers a large area along South America’s eastern coast, most of Brazil’s borders fall in the interior of the continent. The port sector of the country has an average of 700 million tons of various goods annual turnover. Hence, the ports in Brazil contribute more than 90% of the country’s trade in terms of volume.
Brazil has a total of 175 port installations, including around 32 public ports, while the rest of them are private ports. The largest and key public port in the country is Porto de Santos or Santos Port, which is situated in São Paulo state.
All ports in the country are under the regulatory bodies ANTAQ (National Agency For Waterway Transportation) and MTPAC (the Ministry of Transportation, Ports, and Civil Aviation). A port authority oversees each port, whereas activities undertaken in Brazil’s jurisdiction waters are under the control of the Brazilian Maritime Authority.
The SEP-PR (Secretariat of Ports of Presidency) of the MTPAC administers the country’s port system. Their responsibilities include the formulation of policies and licensing programs, and projects supporting the development of seaports.
The country has a spread of 50,000 kilometres of waterways with around 36 deep-water ports. In this article, we will talk about the 10 major ports in Brazil and their importance.
1. Santos Port – SP (Porto de Santos)
Santos, São Paulo
Gross Cargo Tonnage (2017): 129.8 million tonnes
TEU Traffic (2017): 2.697 million units
Located in the city of Santos in the São Paulo state of Brazil, Port Of Santos is the busiest container port in entire Latin America. Moreover, it stands at the 39th position in the world’s busiest container ports. As of today, it has the most modern structure in the country and remains to be the largest port in Latin America.
Also known as Porto de Santos, plays an important role in São Paulo’s economy, being responsible for Brazil’s 28% of foreign trade. Spread in an area of 770 hectares, Santos Port is the gateway to most of the goods that circulate around the country.
Sugar, soy, and coffee being its main exports, it is the largest port in Brazil that provides imports and exports to and from all over the world. As of 2010, the port held a record of nearly 97.2 million tons of cargo.
Porto de Santos holds a wide range of cargo handling terminals. This includes solid and liquid bulk, alongside containers and general loads.
Anchieta and Imigrantes highways make up the terrestrial access system to the port, while Ferroban and MRS operate the railroads.
The principal source of income for the people of Santos city comes from the port, which itself is highly dependant on the workforce. Hence, a worker strike in the port affects the entire city and has caused plenty of issues in the past.
Since the 1980s, the Companhia Docas do Estado de São Paulo or CODESP administers one of the most popular ports in Brazil, Porte de Santos.
2. Port Of Santarém – PA
Gross Cargo Tonnage(2019): 12 million tonnes
Situated in the city of Santarém in the Pará star of Brazil, the Port of Santarém is a popular river port in the country. The port lies at Ponta do Salé on the southern bank of Tapajós River.
It is three kilometres away from the confluence of the Amazon River, whereas at an 867 km river distance from the city of Belém.
The construction of the Santarém port proposed by the National Integration Plan (PIN) began in the 1970s by the military government.
Eventually, it was inaugurated in February 1974 and received cargo and passenger ships using the precarious municipal warehouse of Santarém.
The port operates with general cargo and solid bulks of vegetable origin and fertilizers, passengers of the river, and cruise ships alongside fuels, LPG, and other liquid bulk coming from petroleum. Inland shipping landings and export of grain happen from two directions.
These include around 80% of the cargo from Porto Velho (Rondônio) and 20% of it coming from Miritituba, Pará. The two main items exported are wood and grain include soy and corn, which are exported around different parts of the world.
The Port of Santarém is administered by Companhia Docas do Pará (CDP).
3. Port of Salvador – BA
Gross Cargo Tonnage: Approx. 5 million tonnes
Situated on the All Saints Bay in Salvador city of Bahia state, the Port of Salvador is a seaport in Brazil. It lies at the eastern part of the entrance of Todos os Santos Bay from the Atlantic Ocean. The port was constructed in order to manage and distribute cargo around the state.
Porto de Salvador 2007 cargo tonnage constituted around 2.6 million tons of ocean-going cargo alongside 0.53 tons of internal cargo. It has 12 berths intended for general cargo, with one specializing in containers and one for Ro-Ro.
The Port of Salvador is set to be established in the 16th century and took years to become as developed as it is today. Its economic and population growth became significant around the 1940s.
However, the importance of the modern port was highlighted when an industrial centre and petrochemical complex were built close to the city.
The port now provides clearance and pilotage services to the port of Aratu, Madre de Dues’s Petrobras oil terminal, along with the Usiba iron ore terminal.
The Salvador Port is currently administered by Companhia das Docas Estado da Bahia (CODEBA). It is amongst the most famous ports in Brazil.
4. Port of Vitória – ES (Porto de Vitória)
Vitória, Espirito Santo Bay
Porto de Vitória is located in the city of Vitória of the Espirito Santo Bay of Brazil. It lies on the shores of the Santa Marta River on Vitoria Bay’s either side.
The Vitória port is amongst the most difficult ports for ships to access in the country. It lacks investment in infrastructure to enhance access for large vessels. Hence, the port is extremely narrow and has stones and mountains, complicating their access. It has traffic restrictions that limit the port’s use.
As a result, Porto de Vitória is currently used mostly by cruise ships alongside ships and oil platform repairing. When it started showing signs of saturation, the Companhia Vale do Rio Doce established another port in the city of Vitória.
Several projects for the improvement of the Port of Vitória have been outlined. However, their construction is still under process. It is desired to support the oil and gas industry of Brazil. The port circulates a variety of products, including steel products, cocoa, cereal, and soluble coffee beans. Other main products are marble and granite, iron, pig iron, and bulk.
The Companhia Docas do Espirito Santo or CODESA administers the Port of Vitória.
5. Port of Paranaguá – PR (Porto de Paranaguá)
Gross Cargo Tonnage(2020): 57 million tonnes
Situated in the Paranaguá city of the Paraná state of Brazil, the Port of Paranaguá is the largest bulk port in Latin America. Amongst all ports in Brazil, Porto de Paranaguá is the largest for grain export, second largest in tonnage and third largest in container shipping.
Porto de Paranaguá is known for exporting agricultural products, mainly soybeans and soybeans meal. Other products of export include soy flour, vegetable oil, sugar, paper (coil), frozen products, and several others.
The popular port was established as a private-owned wharf towards the end of the 19th century. As of today, the Paranaguá port does not have the proper structure to manage the current volume of exports.
The second amongst the largest ports in Brazil is administered by Administração dos Portos de Paranaguá (APP) since the late-1940s.
6. Port of Rio de Janeiro – RJ (Porto de Rio de Janeiro)
Rio de Janeiro city, Rio de Janeiro state
Gross Cargo Tonnage (2016): 6.1 million tonnes
TEU Traffic (2016): 0.29 million units
The Port of Rio de Janerio is a seaport in Brazil’s second-most populous city Rio de Janeiro, situated in the homonym state. It lies on the western coast of popular Guanabara Bay.
Being the third-busiest Port of Brazil, it operates with loads including general container cargo, electronic, rubber, petrochemicals, steel products, and pig iron. The list of Rio de Janerio Port’s main products includes vehicle parts, press paper rolls, coffee alongside solid bulk.
While the proposal of the port’s construction came in the 1870s, Porto de Rio de Janeiro only opened until 1910. It has a long pier of 6.7 kilometres with 31 berths, 18 warehouses alongside 15 open patios.
The Companhia Docas do Rio de Janeiro is responsible for the management and administration of the Port of Rio de Janeiro.
7. Rio Grande Port – RS
Rio Grande, Rio Grande do Sul
Gross Cargo Tonnage(2015-2016): 37.6 million tonnes
Located in the state of Rio Grande do Sul, Porto de Rio Grande is one of the main ports in Brazil as well as in Latin America. It ranks in the third position amongst the largest ports in the country. The seaport sits along the right bank of the North channel.
Even though the port was proposed when the Rio Grande city was founded (1737), its construction did not start until 1869. Hence, Porto de Rio Grande was inaugurated later in 1972. As of today, the seaport is one of the most developed ports in the country. It has a long wharf and isn’t saturated or congested like many other ports in Brazil.
The main products of export through the Rio Grande Port include soybeans, soybean meal, wheat, rice, benzene, and cellulose, alongside others. On the other hand, the main import products are mostly chemicals and minerals along with crude oil, barley, wheat, etc.
As of today, the state government of Rio Grande do Sul handles the management and administration of the famous seaport through the Superintendency of Ports of Rio Grande do Sul (SUPRG).
8. Ponta da Madeira – MA
Sao Luis, Maranhão
Gross Cargo Tonnage(2020): 190.1 million tonnes
Situated in the Sao Luis city of Brazil’s Maranhão state, Ponta da Madeira is one of the largest iron ore loading ports in the country. The private port is one of the fewest Brazilian terminals that are suited for ultra-large Valemax ships.
It is situated right next to the Port of Itaqui, which is a public port in the same state. Moreover, the private port was elected as the terminus of the Estrada de Ferro Carajas. The Brazilian mining company Vale owns Ponta da Madeira and intends to build huge steelworks alongside the terminal in the future. The private maritime port is considered to be the national champion in cargo handling.
9. Port of Itaqui – MA (Porte de Itaqui)
Sao Luis, Maranhão
The Port of Itaqui is often confused to be in the city of Itaqui in the Rio Grande do Sul state. However, the seaport is actually situated in Sao Luis city in the Brazilian state of Maranhão. It sits next to Ponta da Madeira private port.
The construction of the port began back in 1966 and was inaugurated around 1974. Initially, a Maranhão dock company Codomar, Companhia Docas do Maranhão managed the Port of Itaqui. However, its administration was later passed on to the state government of Maranhão.
The main cargoes of Porte de Itaqui include aluminium ingots and bars alongside general solid and liquid bulk. Moreover, the port also exports soybean, copper, and pig iron.
10. Port of Pecem – CE
Sao Goncalo do Amarante, Ceará
Gross Cargo Tonnage (2013): 6.3 million tonnes
Located in the municipality of Sao Goncalo do Amarante, in the state of Amarante. It is one of the two large ports in the Brazilian state. Under the government of Brazil’s Growth Acceleration Program (PAC2), the seaport started its phased expansion back in the day.
For the last few years, the northeastern port in Brazil is rapidly and strategically growing. It lies nearly fifty kilometres away from the capital city of Ceará, Fortaleza.
The Port of Pecem is a deep water port with two piers. Moreover, it handles general cargo and containers. The main products of export and import through the small port include shrimps, fruits, and cashew nuts.
Even though it is quite smaller, the Port of Pecem is amongst the major ports in Brazil.
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