Above: Cargill CBU at Santarem Terminal, operating at maximum capacity.
On 1 September 2023, USDA (US Department of Agriculture) confirmed that Brazil was for a second year the main corn exporter. This development is the result of a growth in continuous production, and is being supported by logistic expansions at ports in the north of the country, writes Paulo Lemgruber, INTEROCEAN Engenharia.
Mainly using inland navigation that started 30 years ago, Madeira river inland navigation for grains feed the new private harbours enterprises that are currently operating at Itacoatiara, Santarem, Vila do Conde and Santana harbour complexes. The Itaqui harbour is serviced by railway from the eastern farming region as well as by roads.
These new logistical options support the farmers’ best priorities to enlarge productions, originally of soya and lately corn. It’s also of key importance that the USA is using more corn for ethanol, in the same way that Brazil uses sugar cane production for clean fuel — a far better environmental solution than Europe’s electrical generation mainly by coal power plants.
Amazonian inland navigation has been driven by modern azimuthal pusher boats that operate more reliable at higher speed than conventional pushers. They provided better convoy controls at the bends and narrows of wild waterways subject to expressive flood currents and depths exceeding 18m at Madeira, 23m at Amazon and 7m at Tapajos rivers, the main waterways from Central North to the world, providing the extra production required by world market. Nowadays 80% of grains and also minerals at South American waterways use azimuthal propulsion pushers, both within Amazonian and Mercosul (Paraguay-Parana rivers down to Argentina and Uruguay terminals).
The long-recognized competitiveness of Brazilian farm inner fields is being supported by the best technologies for the modern pusher hulls that are being used for inland navigation and in harbours. These provide hydrodynamic protection against floating wood debris, as well as new barge standards that are bigger than those that are feasible in the USA — due to lock restrictions which do not affect both Amazonian and Mercosul waterways, with only one dam with locks at both North and South rivers.
Several barges are 3,000dwt and some are even bigger at 3,500dwt, improving logistical handling during loading, navigation and unloading operations. This combines with extensive use of the modern continuous ship-unloading (CSU) technology from Siwertell. This technology ensures no leaking, no dust and superior performance compared with other solutions. At the Santarem terminal, Cargill has replaced two pneumatic unloaders with a single CSU with triple capacity and the same energy consumption — this is a big improvement that is already in use for unloading 80% of inland grain barges.
TGPM Floating Terminal (ADM & GLENCORE ) at Para river with
two roofed barges for SIWERTELL barge unloader 1,800tph
Cargill’s CBU (continuous barge unloader) is installed at the floating terminal, designed by INTEROCEAN, at Santarem. It is used in all weathers and river levels, and has a roof to protect it at all times from the weather during rain. CSUs and CBUs with capacities from 1,200tph (tonnes per hour) to 1,800tph are in operation at five Amazonian terminals, but installations offering 3,500tph will be in operation soon.
The USA’s internal corn market consumption boosting international prices, combined with new inland logistics in the north, makes more corn plantations feasible using fertilizer.
Considering Brazil’s outstanding clean energy sources (hydropowers exceed 52%, followed by wind and solar clean sources providing about 30%, plus the biomass 15% and only 1% nuclear) thermo diesel is only used by 2% isolated sites within the Amazonian region. However, some of them are being replaced by LNG (liquefied natural gas).
The seasonal forest fires as result of warm equatorial weather are far from the catastrophic situations presently seen in more developed countries areas Hawaii, Greece, California, Canada, France and Spain.
A 5x5 UNITAPAJOS (BUNGE & AMAGGI ) convoy 50,000dwt designed by Brazilian INTEROCEAN. At Tapajos-Amazon-Para the river is subject to waves
because of Amazonian storms. The hatch covers with aluminium light weight fast handling, supplied by Belgian manufactures
Blommaert, provides full hold access during fast loading and unloading operation and provides safe watertightness.
More inland navigation transportation volumes in the north decreases pressures on trucking and railways (which have far bigger diesel oil consumptions and gas emissions, not to mention the social impact and road damage, resulting in more accidents and casualties at crowded south Brazilian roads and cities). The southern farmers will also enjoy less crowded harbours when more cargo moves to the north from inland western areas, that will continue to grow as Brazil is only using 13% of the country’s land for plantation. Besides about 25% for cattle, it’s a wise assumption that a move towards more farmland will continue, increasing Brazil’s production and feeding a still hungry world. This will inevitably be followed by inland fleet expansions and more exports of soya, corn, cotton, sugar, orange juice, coffee, rice, fruit, as well as beef, poultry, pork meat and soon fish from farms.