By Tracy Woodley, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Petrobras Transporte S.A. (Transpetro), a subsidiary of Petrobras responsible for the transportation of petroleum and natural gas, received a new product shipment vessel this morning in concordance with the company’s Fleet Expansion and Modernization Program (PROMEF). The ship, named after Brazilian historian Sérgio Buarque de Holanda, was unveiled at a ceremony in Rio, and is one of the 49 vessels that has been ordered by Transpetro in the port of Niterói.
The vessel, which spans 83 meters (272 feet) in length and measures 43 meters (143 feet) in height, is capable of carrying approximately 48,000 tons of oil, and immediately went into operation this morning with a naphtha shipment headed for Salvador.
The ship’s maiden voyage was presented by the government as an opportunity for job creation and economic stimulation for Brazil, as the creation of PROMEF coincided with projections of reduced expectations for growth of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
During the launch ceremony Edison Lobão, Minister of Mines and Energy said, “I heard a warning to the effect that the government has to take action against possible discontinuation of production. Through Petrobras, Brazil currently has the largest order in the world to fill, with US$250 billion over five years spent on ships, platforms, rigs, supply vessels and other equipment. There is no chance of things slowing down.”
Lobão said that in the 1970s Brazil had the second largest shipbuilding industry in the world, but twenty years ago the country was employing only approximately 2,000 people. Thanks to strong returns from the oil industry, the sector now provides approximately 60,000 direct jobs and 160,000 indirect jobs. Nearly 27,000 of these jobs are located in the state of Rio de Janeiro.
“People looked at us and said, ‘it will be impossible for Brazil to return to the shipping industry.’ There were people who had other interests and did not want to build ships here… but making a ship in Brazil means more income, and also more tax generation. We aren’t solely interested in economic development, but also social development,” said Sergio Machado, president of Transpetro.
Machado also drew attention to three new shipyards currently being constructed, as well as the barges being built to ensure more efficient ethanol transportation across the Tiete River, thus replacing the heavy use of trucks.
These expansions are expected to bolster Brazil’s increased maritime commercial traffic in ports such as Rio de Janeiro’s Guanabara Bay, which has already seen a huge surge in the number of ships arriving daily. The developments will facilitate the rapidly growing imports and exports, which could turn Brazil into a leading international oceanic trading partner.
Transpetro made headlines on January 26th after reporting an oil spill at Terminal Osório, about four miles off the coast of Rio Grande do Sul. It was one of a handful of leaks and spills associated to Petrobras that occurred early in 2012.
These events followed close on the heels of both Chevron’s oil spill of November 2011, when approximately 2,400 barrels of oil leaked into the Campos Basin, and the December 2011 Modec spill, all of which triggered widespread calls for more secure offshore drilling contingency plans.