By Ben Tavener, Senior Contributing Reporter

SÃO PAULO, BRAZIL – The Brazilian Senate has approved by a wide majority a bill that changes rules governing how the country’s ports are regulated, in a victory for the ruling government, despite last-minute attempts by opposing senators to derail the bill. The bill aims to open state-run ports to more private investment and lift restrictions on the building of privately-run ports.

Senate Approves Ports Regulation Bill, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil News
Leônidas Cristino, minister for Brazil’s Special Ports Secretariat (center), heralded the passing of the bill, photo by Fábio Rodrigues Pozzebom/ABr.

Officially known as MP 595, the bill was voted in without amendment after receiving the support of 53 votes, with just seven votes against and five abstentions. The text now goes to President Dilma Rousseff for evaluation.

The bill finally reached the Senate on Thursday after a final forty hours of debates in the Chamber of Deputies, many of whom had expressed their frustration and sheer exhaustion following the longest-running Chamber debate in the last 22 years.

According to Leônidas Cristino, minister for Brazil’s Special Ports Secretariat, this approval was vital, but most of the work remains ahead to work out the finer detail of new ports regulations, which would be analyzed “item by item.”

Paulo Skaf, President of the Federation of Industry of São Paulo State (FIESP), said the bill was vital for the country’s competitiveness:

“Brazil is calling for a clash of competition. The measure meets the demands of the most important production sectors: it allows an increase in what operators can offer, promotes greater competition and, consequently, reduces port costs,” Mr. Skaf said.

The bill was also seen by many as an important step towards making sure the country’s ports – considered a serious bottleneck in Brazil’s external trade – work more efficiently, eradicating excessive waits currently endured for cargo to be unloaded.

It was recently reported that ports that should have started running 24 hours a day since mid-April were still failing to do so.

The government has earmarked over R$54 billion for 159 port projects through Brazil to be implemented by 2016 as part of plans to improve the country’s infrastructure, also including upgrades to airports, roads and railways.

Read more (in Portuguese).

* The Rio Times Daily Updates feature is offered to help keep you up-to-date with important news as it happens.

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