In a new drive of investments in the port sector, at least 30 Private Use Terminal (TUP) projects were authorized in 2021 or are being analyzed by port regulator Antaq for authorization in 2022, unlocking contributions of up to R$9.5 billion.
For the Association of Private Port Terminals (ATP), which carried out the survey based on public calls and publications in the Daily Gazette, this proves the preference of many investors for this type of expansion in the sector.
TUPs are necessarily outside organized ports — those managed by dock companies or by state administrations — and have more flexible regulation than the leases of public areas. In the past decade, they had a 38% growth. Today, they handle about two-thirds of port cargo in Brazil, mainly minerals and fuel.
Among the new projects under analysis with chances of signing contracts with the Ministry of Infrastructure in 2022, are two large undertakings. One is Nordeste Logística, on an 83-hectare plot in Pecém (state of Ceará), with four terminals planned — for ore, grains, fertilizers, and containers. Investments of around R$2.35 billion are expected.
Another project that draws attention in the sector is Porto Guará, neighboring Paranaguá (state of Paraná), whose plan also involves the movement of different types of cargo. The request to Antaq mentions disbursements of R$3.85 billion.
Both have already gone through a public call – a process in which the agency opens a period of 30 days for the manifestation of any interested parties in building a TUP in the same geographic region – and are awaiting authorization. For this, it is necessary to have at least a term of reference issued by federal environmental agency Ibama for the preparation of environmental impact studies and land regularizations, as well as the absence of tax pending issues.
“Investor interest is greater in private terminals than in leases within organized ports,” says ATP president Murillo Barbosa. “No one has to wait for the government’s goodwill to conduct bidding processes. The private terminal has more flexibility. It can choose the location and type of cargo. It does not need to comply with the development and zoning plan of the public port.”
In 2013, with the new Ports Law, the requirement for new private terminals to predominantly handle their own cargo was dropped. Thus, the movement of third-party cargo was allowed. According to Mr. Barbosa, the number of authorized TUPs soared to 253 today from 124 that year.
In the calculations of the Ministry of Infrastructure, which are different from those used by ATP, the number of private terminals currently awaiting authorization reaches 53 projects and provides for investments of R$38.8 billion. “The government is no longer hampering investment. The investor’s challenge becomes environmental licensing and the economic viability of the project. It’s up to him to decide,” says the national secretary of Ports, Diogo Piloni.
In fact, however, many authorized projects die out along the way or remain undefined for years because of environmental restrictions or lack of capital for the works. Projects such as the Alcântara Port Terminal (state of Maranhão), Petrocity (state of Espírito Santo), and Porto Sul de Ilhéus (Bahia) disclose figures of billions of reais, but have not yet considered financing or have not yet obtained a prior environmental license.
For consultant Frederico Bussinger, managing partner at Katalysis consultancy and former president of the Port of São Sebastião, one of the most important factors for the success of a TUP project is the cargo guarantee. Therefore, according to him, terminals associated with the owner’s own production chain tend to start operating more easily. This has been the case, for example, with new facilities for the outflow of grain by groups such as Cargill and Louis Dreyfus, in the so-called Arco Norte.
In Mr. Bussinger’s assessment, the difficulty is significantly greater for structures that intend to move different cargoes that are unrelated to the business itself. There are still few successful cases, such as Porto do Açu (state of Rio de Janeiro) or Portonave (Santa Catarina), in creating private ports that handle third-party containers or cargo. “With a guaranteed cargo, the money appears quickly.”
Given the ease with which Antaq’s approval to build TUPs can be obtained, says Mr. Bussinger, permits often become a kind of “government bond”, and applicants only then go after real investors.
Despite the growth trend of TUPs, companies complain about recent attempts to increase regulation on an activity that is entirely private. A group of industry associations even overturned in court, in 2019, Antaq’s resolution that created a system for monitoring prices charged by its customers’ terminals.
The end of Reporto, a tax regime that made investments in ports and railways cheaper, whose recreation was barred by President Jair Bolsonaro in January, is also much criticized. Murillo Barbosa, with ATP, says that the absence of the benefit makes the value of a portainer (a type of crane used for loading and unloading containers) rise to $15 million from around $11 million.
Even with many advertised terminals having difficulties materializing, Mr. Piloni says that TUPs are already the main growth vector in the sector. “For every R$1 in investments effectively executed in port leases, we had R$3 in private terminals in 2021.
Source: Valor international