Chinese company invests in major port in Brazil's northeast
Paulo Cabral, São Luis do Maranhão
China has a bad need for commodities, like grains and iron ore from Brazil, and shipping them halfway around the globe is a task that demands infrastructure and investment. In São Luis, capital of the northeastern Brazilian state of Maranhão, a new port is now in initial stages of construction as part of China's Belt and Road initiative.
It's an investment of almost 500 million U.S. dollars from a consortium led by China Communications Construction Company (CCCC). The plan is to have it operational in the next three years. The port will have a bridge that runs one kilometer into the sea, allowing up to three ships at a time to dock at a depth of at least 20 meters.
The port's CEO, Cesar Gazoni, says this is a prime location for China's logistics needs.
"This is the northern Arch of Brazil. From here, you are very close to the Panama Canal, you are very close to the east coast of the United States, close to Europe," said Gazoni. "Via the Panama Canal, it's also close to China.”
The port of São Luis is the most advanced Chinese infrastructure investment planned for Brazil's northeast – the country's poorest region. Vice-governor of the state of Maranhão Carlos Brandão said the region is eager for more Chinese investment.
"The Chinese have what we need. They have resources, technology and are interested in expanding their business around the world," said Brandão. "I think this is good for everybody. For us, this is important as it creates jobs, increases wages and improves people's quality of life.”
However, big infrastructure projects often cause local disruptions. In the case of the Port of São Luis, the company and the state are still dealing with a traditional community – the Cajueiros – which have been resisting eviction.
"It's annoying for us. We don't really know what is going to happen to us. I live in a very small house. I wanted to improve it, but I don't do anything, as I am afraid of being evicted," said fisherman Jose Ribamar.
In the Port of São Luis, construction is picking up speed, and in a few years, ships will be docking and taking Brazilian products to China and the rest of the world while bringing in the imports the country needs.