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Brazilian President confirms reversal of port privatisation plans

Photo: Port of Santos Porto-de-Santos-out-2021.jpeg
The privatisation of the main port complexes in Brazil has been discarded as State policy after the inauguration of Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva to the Presidency.

Port privatisation was one of the key policies from the government of previous President Jair Bolsonaro, together with the de-regulation of the maritime cabotage service through the BR do Mar programme, was

The newly inaugurated President Lula da Silva, who had created a Special Secretariat for Ports during his previous administration, and which reported directly on the Presidency, re-organised the administrative structure and created the Ministry of Ports and Airports headed by Márcio França from São Paulo.

The main Latin American port, Santos, key in the maritime connectivity of Argentina, will leave the privatisation process of its administration truncated.

França pointed out on taking office that "we have a very big challenge to take care of the 35 public ports of great strategic importance and the 220 private terminals, the 43 transhipment stations and the other 342 terminals registered in Antaq".

"The port of Santos in São Paulo alone is responsible for 30% of foreign trade," he said, after announcing that the first Brazilian port will be renamed the Port of Santos Pelé, in honour of the Brazilian football star who died a few weeks ago.

The privatisation of port control was the outgoing government's gamble to accelerate modernisation, especially of the land infrastructure connecting the docks.

But França anticipated that he will suspend the process, but not the privatisation of specific areas, in line with the political convictions and the ideals of a large state promoted by the federal government. The governor-elect of São Paulo, Tarcisio de Freitas, responded that he will defend privatisation.

The original project was structured to provide $1.2bn in new investments, of which $406m would have been allocated to port infrastructure and $813m to the construction of a submerged tunnel to connect the cities of Santos and Guarujá.