The Brazilian Senate has approved by a wide majority a bill that changes rules governing how the country’s ports are regulated, in a victory for the ruling government, despite last-minute attempts by opposing senators to derail the bill.

Leônidas Cristino, minister for Brazil’s Special Ports Secretariat (center), heralded the passing of the bill, photo by Fábio Rodrigues Pozzebom/ABr.

Leônidas Cristino, minister for Brazil’s Special Ports Secretariat (centre), heralded the passing of the bill. Photo by Agência Brasil.

The bill aims to open state-run ports to more private investment and lift restrictions on the building of privately-run ports.

Officially known as MP 595, the bill was voted in without amendment after receiving the support of 53 votes, with just seven votes against and five abstentions. The text now goes to President Dilma Rousseff for evaluation.

The bill finally reached the Senate on Thursday after a final 40 hours of debates in the Chamber of Deputies, many of whom had expressed their frustration and sheer exhaustion following the longest-running debate by deputies in the last 22 years.

According to Leônidas Cristino, minister for Brazil’s Special Ports Secretariat, this approval was vital, but most of the work remains ahead to work out the finer detail of new ports regulations, which would be analysed “item by item.”

Paulo Skaf, President of the Federation of Industry of São Paulo State (FIESP), said the bill was vital for the country’s competitiveness:

“Brazil is calling for a clash of competition. The measure meets the demands of the most important production sectors: it allows an increase in what operators can offer, promotes greater competition and, consequently, reduces port costs,” Mr Skaf said.

The bill was also seen by many as an important step towards making sure the country’s ports – considered a serious bottleneck in Brazil’s external trade – work more efficiently, eradicating excessive waits currently endured for cargo to be unloaded.

It was recently reported that ports that should have started running 24 hours a day since mid-April were still failing to do so.

The government has earmarked over R$54 billion for 159 port projects through Brazil to be implemented by 2016 as part of plans to improve the country’s infrastructure, also including upgrades to airports, roads and railways.

First published on The Rio Times website.

President Dilma Rousseff is reported to have finalised the long-awaited “ports package”, the government’s next big investment program to upgrade the country’s overstretched infrastructure, improving ports and how they are managed to increase competitiveness.

Super-size shipping is the new order of things in Brazil. Photo: tyler_haglund (Flickr/CC)

Super-size shipping is the new order of things in Brazil. Photo: tyler_haglund (Flickr/CC)

Details of the investment plan will be presented by the president on November 19th, after her official trip to Spain.

According to a report by Valor, sources close to the president say the package will include “ambitious” investment of R$40 billion (around US$20 billion), and be “light” on regulatory amendments,

The majority of the funds are expected to come from the private sector and, in an apparent policy U-turn, new privately-run terminals will be authorized.

A major management reshuffle is expected for companies running Brazil’s eighteen public ports, although President Rousseff has rejected a national port authority, akin to the now-defunct Portobrás.

Not not only does it take longer in Brazil but, according to a study by development center Fundação Dom Cabral, it also costs more: exporting a container in Brazil costs US$1,790 – seventy percent more than in the U.S. (U$1,050) and three times the cost in Singapore (US$456). The cost of pilotage in Brazilian ports is also high, costing 2.4 times the international average.

The first terminals to undergo concession are expected to be those in Manaus, Amazonas and Ilhéus, Bahia, and then in Espírito Santo and Santa Catarina states, as well as in Itaguaí in Rio State.

The semi-privatisation concession scheme has already been undertaken for the country’s roads, railways and airports – in theory providing a much-needed R$133bn boost to the country’s ailing infrastructure.

Read the full article on The Rio Times website.