Despite the crisis in the sector, the government approves R $ 3 billion for shipyards

Renée Pereira, O Estado de S.Paulo

31 May 2017

Despite the crisis in the naval sector, the Board of Directors of the Merchant Marine Fund (CDFMM) approved in the last months almost R $ 3 billion for the construction of new shipyards. The projects are aimed at repairing medium and large ships and do not involve the construction of vessels – a segment that today faces a collapse due to lack of orders. The question that some experts ask is if the shipyards that are currently standing could not be used to make repairs.

The Ministry of Transport, which manages the Merchant Marine Fund (FMM), argues that they are two distinct businesses and that changing the profile of the yard is not a simple matter. According to the agency, repair sites in Brazil only have small vessels, since the infrastructure is limited, with low depth of the sea access channel and restriction on the size of the pier.

One of the main projects approved by CDFMM is to be built in Paraíba, in the city of Lucena, and is expected to cost R $ 2.8 billion, with R $ 2.15 billion financed by the fund. The idea would be to make repairs for vessels from all over South America. According to the Ministry of Transport, today the repairs in much of the Brazilian fleet are made abroad, in Portugal or in Asia.

Despite this, experts question the demand for this type of service to sustain a project of this size. “The national fleet is small and I do not know if it is enough,” says Rui Carlos Botter, professor at the Polytechnic School of the University of São Paulo (USP), Department of Naval and Oceanic Engineering. According to him, a repair yard needs a dry dock (where construction begins) and giant cranes. The shipbuilding yards, which are standing, have this, like the Rio Grande Shipyard (RS) and the Enseada Paraguaçu (BA).

Without orders, the Mauá Shipyard, in Rio de Janeiro, has already followed this path and has repaired smaller vessels. Activity, however, is less profitable than construction. “But any business is better than doing nothing. At least it helps to close the month, “says Sergio Leal, secretary general of the National Union of the Construction and Repair Industry, Naval and Offshore.

Today in Brazil there are 12 shipyards – some in judicial and extrajudicial recovery – without  work orders. Experts say some yards could migrate to the main activity, but they would need a new feature. The problem is that part of this industry has as partners companies involved in Operation Lava Jato, which investigates corruption in Petrobrás contracts. In this situation, the government would not release more resources. “They also cannot ask for new financing with the government,” says a source in Brasilia. All of them had FMM resources, whose revenue comes from several sources, one of them being the Freight Additional for the Merchant Marine Renewal. Since 2007, the fund has released about R $ 45 billion for the sector.

The Ministry of Transport states that, despite the approval of shipyard projects by the board of directors of the fund, the release of funds is only made after assessing the economic viability of the venture by the banks. The fund has as financial agent the National Economic and Social Development Bank (BNDES) and the other official banks of the country. In a loan, says the ministry, the risk of default is the bank. It is who will check the investor’s ability to pay and the necessary guarantees.

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