Marcus Quintella, FGV Transportes
Fábio Vasconcellos, Estaleiro Rio Maguari
Roberto Levier, Waterline Maritime Strategies
After sending the “BR do Mar” Bill (PL 4199/2020) to the National Congress,
program that aims to encourage, increase competitiveness and boost transport
coastal shipping in Brazil, the Ministry of Infrastructure (MINFRA), in
September 2020, launched the “BR dos Rios” program, with the objective of creating a
public policy aimed at encouraging the development of inland navigation, taking into
given the country’s great river potential.
The geographical characteristics of the Brazilian territory are very favorable to the way
waterway, since the country has a river and lake network with 63 thousand km
almost 27 thousand km of navigable rivers and 15 thousand km of potentially
navigable, according to ANTAQ. The National Transport Confederation (CNT) raised
that Brazil uses only 19,000 km of its rivers for commercial transport, cargo
and passengers, an extension that corresponds to about 30% of its entire river network. In
terms of density of the economically usable river network, Brazil has only 2.3
km of inland roads for every thousand km2, while China, Russia and the USA, countries of
large territorial dimensions, have densities of 11.5, 6.0 and 4.5,
respectively. A simple account shows that the density of the Brazilian river network
could be 7.4 km / 103 km2, if all of its river and lake potential were
Despite divergences in the various existing sources, the participation of the
water transport in the Brazilian cargo matrix is 16%, with a high concentration
in commodities, such as grains, oil and ores, against 65% of road transport,
15% by rail, 4.2% by pipeline and 0.4% by air. Comparatively, Brazil loses
only for the USA in waterway participation in the cargo transport matrix,
beating China and Russia. The US has 41,000 km of waterways and the waterway mode
accounts for 25% of its load matrix. China and Russia, despite having enormous
waterway extensions, 110 thousand km and 102 thousand km, respectively, the participations
waterways in their cargo matrices are lower than the Brazilian one, standing at 11% for
both countries. It is worth mentioning that these comparative figures are only
references, because the geographical and topographic characteristics of the hydrographic basins
countries may not meet the technical, operational and commercial requirements for
the transportation of cargo and people.
According to ANTAQ, within the slice of water transport in the matrix
only 5% of cargo is handled by river. This drop
participation has to do with the historic lack of large investments in transport
inland waterways, as priority has always been given to road transport by governments
of the past decades. According to CNT, in the last 10 years, investments in
river transport had a reduction of 87.6%, from R $ 872.5, in 2009, to
R $ 108.0 million in 2019.
In terms of productivity, in the first half of 2020, in the middle of the environment
pandemic, Brazilian inland waterway transported 10.09 million people
tons of cargo, which indicates a 15.2% drop compared to the same period of
2019, as recorded in the CNT Transportes em Númulos bulletin, of the month of
September. According to CNT, one cannot blame the economic crisis resulting from the
Covid-19 pandemic for the poor performance of Brazilian river navigation, since
that this was the fifth negative result of the modal, on the basis of semiannual comparison,
since July 2018.
This situation of underutilization of the potential of river transport is due to the
infrastructure barriers, excessive bureaucracy, low effectiveness of plans and
government programs and few financial resources invested in the sector, throughout
years, according to the National Confederation of Industry (CNI).
In relation to passenger transport, the last available information of which
2017, CNT estimates that around 9.8 million passengers were transported
along the rivers of the states of Amapá, Amazonas, Pará and Rondônia. In the Amazon, the
river passenger transport is fundamental for the displacement of people and the
supply of riverside communities, and in some locations, rivers
they are practically the only means of transport.
It is worth mentioning that most of the Brazilian river transport takes place in Arco
North, a region composed of the states of Roraima, Amapá, Amazonas, Pará and Maranhão,
with great port logistics, and where the largest hydrographic basin of the
world. This hydrographic region of the Amazon has about 16 thousand km of rivers
waterways that present ideal conditions for inland waterway cargo transportation,
which are located on plateaus or plains, with no waterfalls in their paths.
The main “waterways” in the country are: Tocantins-Araguaia, Solimões-Amazonas, Teles
Pires-Tapajós, São Francisco, Madeira, Paraguay-Paraná, Tietê-Paraná and Taquari-Guaíba.
In many cases, there are environmental problems that are affecting the natural course of
rivers and preventing or hindering navigation, such as, for example, garbage accumulation,
sediment deposits in the beds, oil spills, construction waste, sewage,
removal of riparian forest, among other aggressions carried out by man. The São River
Francisco is a classic example of silting that is increasingly damaging
navigation, fishing, agricultural production and water quality, most of its 2.9
thousand km long.
Waterway transport is very suitable for handling large
quantities of low value-added cargo, over medium and long distances, with
few pollutant emissions and low cost of transported ton. a
river train, with 25 barges, can transport 50 thousand tons of soybeans, which
equals about 1,667 30-ton road trailers or 5 trains
railway with one hundred wagons.
An important study by the CNT points out that, although the 42 thousand km of waterways
and potentially navigable in Brazil are called “waterways”, the country does not
has, in practice, waterways, within the technical and operational standards required for
navigation. Brazilian waterway transport is carried out based on the characteristics
rivers that provide navigability. A true waterway needs
infrastructure, that is, adequate signaling, marking,
traffic monitoring, corrections in water courses, dredging and landslides
and, in certain cases, construction of dams and locks. The only system that
approaching a waterway, according to the study, is the Tietê-Paraná system.
The investments to be made in waterway infrastructure are well
compared to road and rail works, since waterways are already
exist in nature and need only capital contributions for adaptations, such as
dredging, overturning, locks, signaling and port terminals. CNT calculates
whereas the costs of maintaining river waterways are equivalent to about 10% of the costs
maintenance of a highway and 3% of a railway. In addition, transportation
waterways offers lower fuel consumption and greater energy efficiency, as well as
greater security in relation to theft and diversion of cargo, in comparison to the
road transport. The amount of fuel needed to transport a
ton of cargo per kilometer is about 34% less than trucks. A train
inland waterway saves 810 thousand liters of fuel to transport 1 ton of cargo, the
every thousand km traveled.
This whole panorama demonstrates the enormous capacity of the river waterway
contributing to the balance of the cargo transportation matrix in our country, which,
currently it depends heavily on the road mode. Given this scenario, there is the
need for change in our public transport investment policies,
especially in the largest navigable hydrographic basin in the world, ready to meet the
largest grain producing region on the planet, which today accounts for 56% of soybeans
produced in Brazil and can reach 80% of national production in the next ten years.
Therefore, according to MINFRA, BR dos Rios intends to be a public policy
of state, and not a government program, and will depend on “social pressure” to
make the necessary resources feasible for its implementation. The program, which has been
since 2019, is in the initial stage of formulating the
priorities and actions and dialogue between stakeholders and players to obtain
proposals, legal and non-legal.
The waterway sector is very interested in the success of BR dos Rios, as, for
example, the Brazilian Association of Port and Waterway Entities (ABEPH) believes
that this new federal government program will bring countless benefits to the supply chain
Brazilian logistics. At the same time, the Union of the Shipbuilding Industry of the
Pará State (Sinconapa) and the National Union of the Shipbuilding Industry and
Offshore (Sinaval) await more concrete information on the basic proposals of the
federal government to BR dos Rios, to be able to contribute effectively with the
demands of the sector and also be able to act to preserve the active and competent
fluvial shipbuilding industry in Brazil.
Ultimately, the BR dos Rios program may be of great relevance to the
implementation of a major national transport multimodality project,
since inland waterway transport may play a prominent role in balancing the
Brazilian cargo matrix, as well as contributing greatly to the reduction of
logistics costs and Brazil cost. Just as BR do Mar may evolve into a
important federal law in favor of cabotage, we need to act so that BR dos Rios
follow the same path and no longer be an unfulfilled dream.