Bucking the national trend
Porto Itapoá invests beyond increased throughput and potential automation for its future success, writes Carly Fields
Brazil’s ports have had a tumultuous few years, with throughput stunted by on-off concession deals, strikes, and the ramifications of the anti-corruption Operation Car Wash aimed at cleaning up the nation’s businesses. One port that has avoided much of the ruckus has managed to thrive in this environment, moving almost 50% more containers than the national average.
In fact, Porto Itapoá is doing so well that even as it finishes it first expansion phase – which doubled its original layout to 1.2m teu capacity — it is preparing the ground for its next expansion, which will increase its capacity to 2.5m teu.
It’s also considering automation of equipment at all levels, explains diretor de operações, Sergni Pessoa Rosa Junior.
“We are conducting a study with some equipment providers in order to analyse and prepare the terminal for container handling equipment automation,” he tells Port Strategy. In addition, the terminal runs Navis’ N4 automation-ready terminal operating system.
All this is being undertaken with the environment firmly in mind. Porto Itapoá believes that it is not enough to meet environmental regulations: “Environmental preservation is mandatory, essential,” says Mr Junior.
“One of the most important items of our value chain and strategic plan is the environment,” he adds. “Porto Itapoá’s mindset is to preserve our environment in order to guarantee a sustainable and healthy future for our community and planet.”
The port has a number of programmes that target environmental preservation, including recycling, constant monitoring of gases, smart water use, and protection of fauna and forestry. Further, all the lubricants it uses are biodegradable.
“For our environmental license we have done more than the regulation determines,” points out Mr Junior. “For instance, to compensate for the loss of forestry Porto Itapoá acquired an area 10 times the size of its expansion area. After the acquisition of the land, we attached a permanent preservation area to it so that it is legally protected.
“I believe and I am sure and confident that without sustainability in all aspects — social, economic and environmental — the business has no chance of surviving.”
There have been some blips, however. Last year, Porto Itapoá did not manage to escape the truck strikes that brought traffic to a standstill throughout the country. Now, says Mr Junior, the relationship is back on an even keel.
“Truck drivers are one of our most important customers and the terminal puts in all efforts to give them the best service level, and one of the fastest truck cycles in our industry.”
The port also has a dedicated building in the gate area where drivers can rest, grab a coffee and a snack and leave their families — if they are travelling with them — while the driver enters the terminal to pick up or drop off the container.
“Porto Itapoá and truck drivers have a mutual respect. This is what makes this relationship great,” says Mr Junior. To measure satisfaction, Porto Itapoá regularly undertakes a satisfaction survey and maintains open communication channels between its customer service department and truck drivers.
The port also actively participates in community engagement and support programmes. It says that its people are its most important asset and since its start up it has actively invested in and trained local talent, instead of ‘importing’ a ready labour force.
“During the pre-operational phase, our team dedicated themselves to preparing and training the local people. We are very proud to say that we have proficient quay crane operators who had never seen a container before the Porto Itapoá installation.”
Another undertaking that Mr Junior is particularly proud of is its "Mulheres Portuarias" project, which translates to English as "Port Women". Through this the port has supported women in the community to work at the port in any department.
“I am proud to say that the Porto Itapoá team have phenomenal women handling and maintaining our quay cranes, rubber tyred gantry cranes and terminal tractors and also planning and executing our operations and processes,” he says.
Beyond that, Itapoá has a collection of ongoing community initiatives under the umbrella title of AMPLIAR. Examples of parts of the program are support for the local handcrafters to help them scale up their business, support for local fishermen, educational programmes for children and health campaigns.
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