The New Marine Terminal of Belém

The authorities of the Federal State of Pará, as well as of the local authorities of its capital Belém, have recently announced their intention to implement some large scale infrastructure projects. I must say some of the projects are highly desired and very important to the further development of the state, which is according to economic studies some 20 years behind in development, in comparison to the rest of Brazil.
But before I highlight some new projects let’s have a look at the actual situation of some large infrastructure projects announced and (sometimes) partly realised in the last few years.

We shall have a look at the Alça Viária, a bridge crossing the 2km wide Guamá river. The Alça-Viária (lit. Road Ring) is a set of roads and bridges that cross over a dozen estuaries of the Amazon River. An infrastructure project crucial for the economic life of Belém and the state of Pará as a whole.

But before we go there, we have a look at another crucial project, anyway crucial for the people living south of the capital, and consequently along the many, many rivers which are cutting across the Amazon delta.

The Marine Terminal
The Metropolitan Marine Terminal in Belém was supposed to be the first in a series of river terminals in the state of Pará. The idea is to exploit the potential of the waterway rich area, which has over 20,000 km of navigable rivers, directly reaching more than 60% of the municipalities and not only moving the economy of the river people, but that of the entire state.
Although, the few land roads also absorb some of the product flow, the waterways are much more important to the people living along the many estuaries of the Amazon River, as no proper roads are connecting them to the capital Belém.
(Read also my article: Recycle – Sail the Amazon River with Nestlé and Tetra Pak)

The use of a centralised marine terminal, from which all passengers and cargo boats with a destination up the river can embark and disembark, is extremely urgent in view of the precariousness of all other river terminals in Belém. The capital houses tens of individual river terminals, everywhere and all somewhere hidden along the waterfront of the city, mostly without any infrastructure to operate, without proper loading and unloading areas, often improvised on stilts. Consequently the entire population, who are depended on river transport, are placed at risk. And not only the elderly, children and mothers with babies, but all economic activity between Belèm and its hinterland.
However, your qualification is too positive, if you say that the actual situation is a mess.

So, basically it is a very good idea to build a centralised Marine Terminal for the metropolitan area of Belém. Even the architectural design by Paulo Chaves wasn’t bad at all.
But now enters the government of the state, under the disastrous leadership of then Governor Ana Júlia Carepa (PT).

Remember Ana Júlia Carepa? I wrote about her in my article: “The Collapse of Health Care in Pará”.
The Brazilian blog: Movimento da Ordem Vigilia Contra Corrupção, characterised her as a petralha.To explain this “title”, read my article about the health care in Pará..

Back to the Marine Terminal
First the choice of the location. Be aware that the terminal should be able to receive more than 3,000 passengers per day, and furthermore intended to become a leisure option for the people of Belèm.
Ana Júlia’s administration planned the Marine Terminal on the boulevard Arthur Bernardes, at the former site of the Empresa de Navegação da Amazônia Enasa (Amazon Navigation Company), in Belèm. The terminal will serve medium and large ships for passenger and freight from various regions of the states of Pará, Amapá and Amazonas. The complex is planned to occupy an area of six hectares.

It was expected that in the beginning of the month of January 2011, the first two phases of the project were completed, so that the new Metropolitan River Terminal could be inaugurated and start its activities. The project costs were estimated at BRL 23 million (USD 12 million). The last phase of the project was scheduled to start somewhere in 2011.

Just before Ana Júlia was voted out of office per 1st of Jan. 2011, the terminal was “inaugurated”, although the civil works of the first phase of the project weren’t completed yet. Works for some BRL 7 million still had to be carried out. The next two phases, which require an investment of another BRL 16 million (USD 8 million), were suspended due to the blockage of finances by the Caixa Economica (one of the federal banks) due to problems in the accounting of the project.

It is even getting worse, as the terminal probably never ever will go into operation, due to the location Ana Júlia choose.
In Sept 2011 a committee of professionals of the Port Authority, among others, was installed to investigate the irregularities and the viability of the project, now called “Luiz Rebelo Neto MarineTerminal.

According to the State Department of Transportation, there are not only shortcomings in the accountability with the Caixa Economica Federal, the federal bank responsible for the financing of the project, but also the initiators of the project haven’t taken into consideration the marine technical and urban aspects for a passenger port in that particular location.

Regarding the technical feasibility, the director of River Transport explained that from a naval point of view, the terminal is fully committed, because years ago two vessels shipwrecked near the port, which makes navigating the channels towards the projected passenger port very risky.

From an urban point of view, it is noted that “the terminal project was developed completely neglecting the logistical context of the city”. For this location there are no bus lines and alternatives routes to meet the huge influx of passengers that the terminal will have. Setting up a passenger port without taking into account these aspects is to cause a mobility problem for the residents of Belém and of course, for the passengers.

Consequently in Sept. 2011, the journal “Diário do Pará”, wrote: “An example of mismanagement, poor planning and lack of common sense, these could be some of the adjectives for the projected River Terminal (Terminal Hidroviário Luiz Rebelo Neto) in Belém, which construction works are now suspended. Located on the highway Arthur Bernardes, it sits in a location not suitable for this type of infrastructure due to both the poor public transport, as well as the existence of several factors that prevent a large river boat to anchor there, as two sunken sea vessels almost close the entry to the channel and so on”.

It is clear that, apart from the technical problems, the actual passengers, the ribeirinhos (the people living alongside the rivers) condemn this river port, as it is too far from the city’s commercial centre and Ver-o-Peso, the central market where they are used to do their shopping, as the location of the terminal presents insurmountable problems in relation to urban transport.

Furthermore the secretary of culture warned of the risks to the integrity of historical monuments and relics on the ground where the terminal was built. According to him, many years ago the place was the old Fazenda Val de Cans. Currently, you can still see the ruins of some farm buildings, as well as a chapel of the Capuchin congregation, the Franciscan friars.

The secretary of culture is already working on a project for this location, which will preserve the heritage of the farm.

That’s the balance of the mess. A well-chosen location
Federal funds wasted never sit well with the Federal Government and so the sitting governor Simão Jatene is confronted with an official notification, dated the 31st of May 2012, of the Attorney-General of the Federal Public Ministry in Pará (MPF), recommending that the marine terminal in Belèm has to go into operation within 60 days. But who wants this terminal?

Although it is said that the sitting administration is already considering a plan B for the area and the structure now standing, which is rumoured to become a new urban park, of which even the name is already mentioned, .. Jardin de las Palmas, the big question is whether the Federal Government is willing to accept this plan B and whether it is willing to invest another roughly USD 15 million into a new River Terminal Project, to be located in a more suitable place.

Anyway we are waiting to see the scenes of the next chapters.

Photos: Ministério Público Federal