New Pre-salt Port Worries Environmentalists

New Wave Media

June 16, 2013

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The Ponta Negra Terminal (TPN) to be built at the south side of Jaconé Beach at Ponta Negra Point is to be one of the biggest ports in the country. DTA Engineering, responsible for the project, unofficially called the Pre-salt port and with an investment forecast of $5,4 billion in an area of 557,2 thousand square meters, is expected to link oil & gas pipelines from the Pre-salt plays to the Petrochemical complex of the state of Rio de Janeiro (Comperj), which is located in the nearby city of Itaborai. The project includes a port, a ship and rig maintenance shipyard and a refinery. Authorities consider the location ideal due to the fact that the point has a natural depth of 30 meters.

The refinery project is forecast to receive 850 thousand barrels of oil per day, equivalent to 40% of the current Brazilian oil production. The builders are promising an unspecified novel new technology against oil spills, this new technology is also untested.

Environmentalists are very worried because this location at Black Point (Ponta Negra) is one of the most preserved beaches in the state of Rio de Janeiro. It has its own characteristic sand, the location is important breeding area for four kinds of whales, it is also a location which was visited and considered of great environmental importance by Charles Darwin in the XIX century. “Ponta Negra” is also an excellent surf location, which can hold swells up to 20 feet. This is another worry as massive breakwaters will have to be built way beyond the point itself. The swells there are so strong that they may cause serious damage to the port and to ships, which in turn may lead to environmental accidents. Local fishermen are also incensed by the idea of having such a location rich in various noble fishes polluted.

There have been no serious studies on the environmental impact of such an enterprise in this location and the city of Marica, which is the nearest city to the port complex, simply does not have enough infrastructure to house such a major project, almost certainly causing an increase in pollution, crime and violence in a very calm area, due to the influx of workers for the port construction. Shantytowns are expected to be built by these workers and there are no known plans to curb the imminent pollution caused by such an influx of people.

Unfortunately, the state government is all for it, irrespective of the consequences. The national development bank BNDES is also very interested in financing the project and little is spoken about environmental impacts. When any of the parts directly involved actually speak of impacts, they downplay any consequences and actually make fun of such worries.

The sad truth is that by the second semester of 2012 the port is expected to receive its environmental licence, with only a token environmental impact study to back it up. Financial and logistic interests are nearly certain to overlap any concerns with nature.

There are other locations along the coast that could house this port complex leaving a much smaller footprint, unfortunately it looks like the developers and the local government have their mind set on this and are not even looking at any alternatives. So once again it looks like ignorance and economic interests will prevail, as is almost always the case in these types of developments in Brazil.

Claudio Paschoa

environmentgasmaricaoilpollutionponta negraportrefineryrepairshipsshipyard
Paschoa, Claudio
Claudio Paschoa is Marine Technology Reporter's correspondent in Brazil.
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