By Lise Alves, Senior Contributing Reporter
SÃO PAULO, BRAZIL – Although the 2016 Olympics are still two years away, trial test races for the upcoming games are already disrupting Rio de Janeiro’s port and are likely to cause million-dollar losses says Andre de Seixas, director at IRO-Log, a logistics company which operates in Rio de Janeiro.
The financial loss, insists Seixas, is due to restrictions imposed by the Capitania dos Portos do Rio de Janeiro (Rio de Janeiro Port Authority), because of a trial sailing international regatta being held in Guanabara Bay sponsored by the 2016 Olympics Committee. The event, dubbed Aquece Rio, has the objective of testing the locations where the different sports events will be held in 2016.
“The Port Authority did not even ask for permission from the Federal Secretary of Ports,” says an incredulous Seixas, “It received a request from COI (International Olympic Commission) and went ahead and closed down Rio’s Port.”
Because of the regatta the Port Authority determined that ships and fishing vessels are prohibited from maneuvering in the southern part of the Guanabara Bay between 11AM and 5PM from Sunday, August 3rd to Saturday, August 9th. According to the entity only passenger barges which transport passengers across the bay to Niteroi, Ilha do Governador and Paqueta will be able to navigate during these periods.
“This decision is likely to lead to losses of million of dollars,” says Seixas, “and the financial loss is not even the most important issue here; the damage this (restriction decision) will cause on the port’s image is immeasurable.” Seixas was so outraged at the decision that he filed an action suit with the Federal Prosecutor’s Office Monday, August 5th, denouncing the restrictions. “I have never in my life heard of a large, important port being closed down for a regatta event,” he says.
According to Seixas daily rates for a ship docked at Rio’s port is of approximately US$100,000. “Some ship owners are livid,” he says, “and that hurts our reputation as a port.”
Although Seixas claims that importers and exporters are also likely to feel the impacts of the delays, Marcos Souza, cargo coordinator at Fink, says that he has not yet received any complaints or messages from the port that client merchandize has been delayed due to the regatta. “Many ships are already docked by 11AM and it usually takes more than twelve hours for the loading and unloading of these vessels,” he says.
The coordinator, however, admits that for ship owners the situation may be more critical. “The price of keeping a vessel out at sea, waiting, or docked, is enormous. They really want to come in and get out as fast as possible,” he adds. According to Souza, Fink moves approximately twenty containers per month from the Rio de Janeiro Port, between exports and imports.
Hundreds of ships dock weekly at the Rio de Janeiro Port receiving and delivering an array of products. Port terminals are investing billions of dollars, says Seixas, to expand facilities and improve dredging conditions.
All those investments, however, could be tainted by one bad decision. “I hope the courts see it my way and at least change the location of the 2015 sailing race and the 2016 Olympics so that it does not interfere with port operations,” he concludes.
At the same time, in May the Associated Press reported Rio’s state environment secretary, Carlos Francisco Portinho admitted in a letter to Brazil’s Sports Minister Aldo Rebelo, that with the current available funds the city would not meet its goals of trash and sewage removal from Guanabara Bay in time for the Olympic Games.
Guanbarra Bay is scheduled to host Olympic sailing events and while the city of Rio tested the waters and found them to be acceptable by Brazilian standards, both national and international sailors have voiced complaints about the quality of the bay’s waters.