Euphoria with the discovery of the pre-salt and large orders of Petrobras, which led to the construction of dozens of shipyards in the country, left a balance of 20 closed companies and 55 thousand unemployed people, in a sector that has contracted, four 84,000 employees, according to the National Union of Shipbuilding and Repair and Offshore Industry (Sinaval).
The naval industry, which added 52 shipyards in 2014, has experienced a deep crisis since 2015, due to the impact of the Lava-Jet’s investigations and cut orders by Petrobras. Of the 32 remaining yards, many are seeking alternative activities to continue operating, such as boat repair, while others resort to judicial or extrajudicial recovery.
The reactivation of the sector was supported by federal programs adopted since the early 2000s, such as the Transpetro Fleet Modernization and Expansion Program (Promef), a logistics subsidiary of Petrobras. Launched in 2005, the initiative was aimed at building vessels in the country, with a nationalization rate of 65%, and renewing Petrobras’ fleet.
Funding was up to 90% of the project to sites that agreed to a higher percentage of local content. At the beginning of 2015, Transpetro’s orders to domestic companies totaled 49 vessels, with a projected investment of R $ 11.2 billion. Since 2007, about R $ 45 billion of the Merchant Marine Fund (FMM) has been released, to finance the sector.
Chief FMM agent, the National Bank for Economic and Social Development (BNDES) financed the construction and modernization of part of the medium and large shipyards and the construction of more than 130 vessels. The profile of the bank’s financing portfolio, which now totals around R $ 29 billion, reflects the radical change in the situation of the shipbuilding industry. In 2010, according to BNDES data, approximately 47% of the contracted value was used for the construction of oil platform support vessels and 51% for the construction of oil tankers. As early as 2017, about 95% of the funding went to the construction of port support vessels.
“Anyone who has not closed, works with repair, or uses space for industrial design or other activity,” says Sergio Bacci, vice president of Sinaval.
Who has not closed, works with repair, or uses space for industrial design or other activity
Some shipyards are finishing ships for Petrobras, and after that there are no more orders. To avoid collapse, the industry also seeks other fronts, such as supply to the Brazilian Navy. At the end of October, the winning bid will be announced for the construction of four corvettes (warships) in the country, with a total investment of approximately US $ 1.8 billion. The first unit will cost close to $ 450 million and is expected to be delivered in 2022. The sector also looks at another project studied by the Navy, for the construction of 25 patrol ships.
For Marcelo Campos, president of the Sectorial Chamber of Naval and Offshore Equipment of the Brazilian Association of Machinery and Equipment Industry (Abimaq), the repair activity is palliative. “The industry can not live on that and still pay for long-term financing,” he says. In his view, the sector will hardly be able to return to production levels observed in the pre-crisis period and, in order not to be extinguished, it needs orders, such as can be made by the Navy.
Different situation exists the shipyards of the North of the country, that work mainly with fluvial boats and count on a greater variety of clients and products, depending little on Petrobras. “This excessive reliance on only one customer is not beneficial in any area of business and shipbuilding is no different,” says Fabio Vasconcellos, commercial director of the Rio Maguari Shipyard in Belém do Pará. Founded in 1987, the Rio Maguari shipyard builds river and ocean barges, pushers, tugboats, patrol boats and floating ports, as well as passenger ships.
With the development of the grain export corridor through Arco Norte, from 2012 on, demand has remained warm. In the last five years, the Rio Maguari has built more than 300 units, mainly of barges and river pushers. In 2017, 70 barges and four pushers were produced. In 2018, to date, the company has delivered 30 barges and has three pushers under construction. These vessels transport products from the Manaus Free Zone, ore, grains, general cargo, fuels and are also used as floating cranes and offshore support.
In agribusiness, the main clients of the Maguari River are the national and international tradings, as well as logistic operators, among which are the big ones of the sector such as the Maggi Group, Unitapajós, Cargill, LDC and Hidrovias do Brasil.