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August 4, 2011

Dredging Operation Planned for Brazil's Largest Grain Port

As part of the environmental review process concerning proposed improvements at the Port of Paranagua in southern Brazil, an open forum was held last week where the general public could comment on plans to dredge the port, the accompanying bay, and the shipping lanes that lead to the port. The open forum was jointly held by the Port Administration and the Brazilian Institute of Renewable Natural Resources (Ibama, which is the Brazilian equivalent of the Environmental Protection Agency). The centerpiece of the forum was the official Environmental Impact Study concerning proposed improvements at the port.

Approximately 200 people participated in the forum including: workers from the port, businessmen, environmental research professionals, representatives of the various port operations, representatives from companies that operate at the port, representatives of industries that rely on port operations to export their products, regulatory agencies, environmental inspectors, federal and state officials involved in infrastructure improvements, public officials, and the general public interested on learning more about and commenting on the environmental impact of the dredging and other port improvements.

The area slated for dredging includes the berths at the port, adjoining areas of the bay, and approximately 30 kilometers of shipping lanes from the Atlantic Ocean to the port. The plan calls for deepening the shipping lane to a depth of 16 meters. The bay is scheduled to be dredged from a current depth of 12 meters to 14 meters. The berths are also slated to be dredged to a depth of 14 meters. The berths need to be deepened because ships cannot be fully loaded at several of the berths due to not enough draft.

The work is scheduled to take nine months and estimates are that the dredging will remove 8 million cubic meters of sediment. The dredged sediment will be released in the open ocean approximately 40 kilometers from the port. The total cost of the dredging operation is estimated at R$ 90 million with half being paid by the port authority and the other half by the federal government.

This dredging operation is just the first step in a multi billion expansion and modernization of Brazil's largest grain exporting facility. The port has been plagued by a chronic lack of capacity to handle Brazil's ever expanding grain production. As with many projects in Brazil, it all looks good on paper, but it remains to be seen if adequate resources will be allocated to complete the entire project.