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Porto do Itaqui: The Forefront of Brazilian Port Development

Across almost 20 million hectares of the hinterland, the Port of Itaqui (Porto do Itaqui) boosts the local and national economy of Itaqui through its vital cargo services for a range of products including grains, minerals, and petroleum derivatives. These vital exports have established the Port of Itaqui as a key international hub, which, through a crucial management system, has continued to bring investment into the port and surrounding region. Therefore, the Port of Itaqui continues to provide excellent port logistics to strengthen supply chains, whilst developing new investment projects to position itself at the forefront of Brazilian port development.  

Located in the Matopiba region, which brings together the states of Maranhão, Tocantins, Piauí and Bahia, Itaqui has long been a key driving force for economic development along the Central-West of Brazil. Port operations in Itaqui have a long history, and in 1918 saw a decree which would contract the construction of docking facilities in Itaqui which linked the commercial centre of São Luís with a wider international market. However, the grant was not prosperous and was terminated in 1923, with the construction of the Port of Itaqui not beginning until 1960. The construction of piers at the Port of Itaqui was facilitated by the National Department of Ports and Waterways, and the Port began official operations in 1972 following the completion of the first two berths.  

Over the next 50 years, the port continued to expand with the development of the pier to cater to further berths, including some solely for the management of petroleum and cellulose products. Now in 2024, the Port of Itaqui has 9 operational berths, which play a vital role in establishing strong supply chains for the region and continue to bring more investment to the region subsequently establishing the Itaqui Port Industrial Complex within both national and international markets.  

The Port of Itaqui is overseen by the Maranhão Port Administration Company (EMAP) which provides the infrastructure and management to develop port operations, the quality of services and the establishment of employee and business opportunities. EMPA is responsible for supervising port operations, ensuring that activities are carried out regularly, efficiently, safely and with respect for the environment. It also works to authorise the entry and exit of vessels, including the docking, undocking, anchoring and vessel traffic management across the port area.  

As part of this, EMPA oversees the 14 thousand direct and indirect jobs which are created as a result of the port and its operation. Therefore, economically the port benefits both the people and the industry. This management has seen the volume of cargo moving through the port continually rise over the years, with a total of 2.02 million tons of cargo handled by the port in 2023. This is 39% higher than the previous year and highlights the valuable role the port and its management systems continue to play within both the wider port logistics industry and the Itaqui economy.  

A key aspect of the Port of Itaqui’s success is thanks to the interconnectedness of the port to vital railway and highway links. These links include a direct connection with both the Transnordestina (FTL) railway which passes through 7 states across the Northeast and the Carajás Railway (EFC), which connects the capital of Maranhão to Carajás-PA. These routes help the Port of Itaqui to transport cellulose products throughout the region. In addition, the port is also connected with the North-South Railway (FNS) which links the EFC to Açailândia where it transports mineral and vegetable solid bulk and fuels across the states. Alongside the railways, are the federal and state highways including the BR-135, Br-222 and MA-230, which run throughout the north and south of the country. All of these transport services work in lockstep with the Port of Itaqui to take the materials and products handled by the port throughout the country. By utilising the existing infrastructure, the port industry of Itaqui highlights the valuable role they all play in developing supply chains which ultimately brings significant economic benefits to the area.   

In recent months the Port of Itaqui announced that it was looking into gaining a new fertilizer terminal to meet the growing global demand for agricultural inputs. In 2023, the port handled more than 3 million tons of fertilizers, a 22% increase from the previous year highlighting the continued growth in the Brazilian agriculture market. Representatives from the National Secretariat of Ports and Waterway Transport announced it will begin surveys to understand the technical, economic, and environmental possibilities in a feasibility study for the construction of a new fertilizer terminal.  

Ellen Brissac, Contracts and Leasing Manager at the Port of Itaqui outlines that “the new terminal, once completed, will bring a significant boost to the development of the Port of Itaqui, a highly demanded port, mainly for transporting grains and solid bulk materials such as fertilizers. The new terminal will further strengthen the position of the Port of Itaqui as one of the main logistics hubs in Brazil”. The new terminals would create thousands of new jobs for locals and increase the revenue for the port and the Brazilian government making significant contributions towards GDP growth. Therefore, the implementation of a new fertilizer terminal hopes to strengthen both Brazil’s position as one of the main players in the international agriculture market and the Port as a key hub for agriculture business.  

Overall, the Port of Itaqui’s mission to provide excellent port logistics for international supply chains including those in the agriculture and petroleum sectors has been very successful. Therefore, the Port of Itaqui has positioned the region as a vital hub for a whole range of local and international markets. The management and development of the port is a key factor in the continued development of the region’s port industry, and so the Port of Itaqui continues to play a valuable role in bringing economic benefits and investment into the region’s maritime sector.   

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