Santos shippers are breathing sighs of relief after a federal judge overruled a decision that halted direly needed emergency dredging.
Alexandre Berzosa Saliba of First Federal Court of the State of Sao Paulo said that emergency dredging to restore the port’s draft to 13.2 meters (43 feet) must resume. Thousands of containers have missed sailings as result of the draft restrictions and the Santos and Sao Paulo Shipagents Association (Sindamar) said that carriers have lost more than $140 million since the outset of the crisis June 30.
The situation is so acute at Santos, which handled 3.5 million TEU last year, or 40 percent of Brazil’s total container throughput, that it has grabbed the attention of the highest levels of the federal government in the capital of Brasilia.
The dispute centers on which of two dredging contracts — one from port authority Codesp and one from Ministry of Transport, Ports, and Civil Aviation (MTPAC) — takes precedence over the other. Boskalis, which has a long-term contract that starts in September to dredge to 15 meters, said the emergency dredging work Dragabras was carrying out should be under the former’s purview.
It is likely that the MTPAC pressured the judge to overturn the initial injuntion "for the sake of the country's economy,” said one Santos shipping agent.
“The minimum that could be expected for the port community is the resumption of the depth of the Santos port channel that we had before the draft was reduced,” said Sergio Aquino, president of the National Federation of Port Operators.”Therefore this must be just the first step. We can not think that things are settled, since we were without the required depth before the injunction came into force.”
The port now has a draft of 12.6 meters, an improvement from the 12.3 meters that shippers feared the channel would return to if the emergency dredging was not resumed quickly.
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