A ‘revolutionary’ time for Brazilian yards



It has at times been a tortuous process but this month will witness in Brazil the launch of the first tanker for 23 years, and there are tons more on the way, writes Rob Ward from Rio de Janeiro.

The launch of the first (of 10) suezmax tankers built at the Estaleiro Atlantico Sul shipyard for Transpetro – marks the completion of the first round of a revolution in the shipbuilding industry in Brazil, and it highlights just how far the South American country has come.

Sergio Machado, the president of Transpetro, told us: “We most certainly feel vindicated and we do now have a Virtual Reality. I never had a problem with the Virtual yards. If we tried to stop the emergence of new companies the world of commerce would stop spinning. New actors must emerge to take on the challenges of the future.”

He was referring to the accusations made by Wagner Victer, the secretary of state for energy and shipyards for the state of Rio de Janeiro, who, jealous that money for yards and ships was going outside of Rio for almost the first time in Brazilian history, attacked Machado with the tirade: “It will be an absolute joke if EAS wins the bid as it has no yard, no welders, no cranes and no ship designers. It is a virtual yard and they haven’t built a fishing boat.”

But it is Machado who is laughing now and with USD$3BN plus of orders (for 23 tankers) already tucked away, EAS can only go from strength to strength.

And the TP boss said he was prepared to go through the same process again. Shortly after we interviewed him Machado put his money where his mouth is and awarded the last contract in the Promef 2 phase – for eight gas tankers – to another “Virtual yard”, Promar Ceara. They will probably build a new yard in Fortaleza, but are still trying to convince the local mayor there of its merits.

It was the Machado/Lula USD$3.9Bn Promef (Fleet Renewal) plans (1 and 2), which really got the shipbuilding revival moving through the gears, after the offshore sector had eased the door open for the moribund and rapidly fading industry, which was – until the arrival of a new state-of-the-art yard in the northeast (EAS) – centred almost entirely on Rio de Janeiro.

EAS is a consortium made up Camargo Correa and Queiroz Galvao (two Brazilian construction companies) and Samsung Heavy Industries plus the PJMR consultancy, consisting of four very experienced old hands in the Brazilian shipyard business (including Paulo Haddad and Ariovaldo Rocha, the head of Sinaval, the Brazilian Shipyard Owners Association) and it has become the template for other “Soon to be” yards around the country.

In this sector too everyone wants a slice of the pie.

Eike Batista, regarded by Forbes as the world’s eight richest man, has set up an energy and offshore company and then went for an initial public offering of a new USD$1.7Bn shipyard – OSX – to be constructed at Biguacu, in the south of the country. The IPO was not as well received as expected but did raise USD$1.5BN (much less than the USD$6Bn Batista was hoping for) and the project will go ahead, but not as quickly as first envisaged.

And Sao Paulo listed Wilson, Sons group (part of the London listed Ocean Wilson Holdings), is moving ahead with another massive new yard in Rio Grande, in the far south of Brazil.

Most of the business for these two yards will come from Petrobras and the offshore sector.