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Logistics | Any Port in a Paperless Storm

Brazilian port authorities. Source:

Brazilian port authorities. Source: Secretaria dos Portos

Source: Folha de S.Paulo, which tends to lead its Mercado section with stories highlighting lack of progress toward goals defined by the current federal administration, with talking heads provided by industry lobbying groups.

This approach can be thought of as a subgenre of the «chaos» meme — «chaos in the skies», «chaos on the streets», chaos, chaos, everywhere.

The captain of a ship flying foreign colors, arriving in Brazil, is obliged to supply 190 pieces of information to Brazilian authorities. At times, the same information must be submitted in different documents to the tax authority, the Navy, the public health autority and the federal police.

Brazilian ports operate in chaotic conditions

In order to depart Brazil, the situation is the same: Of the 13 days a container takes to reach its destination, six are spent on paperwork at the port, according to the World Bank.  Clearing Singapore, which leads the world in this ranking, takes one day, while in the United States it takes two.

This is one reason why the price of exporting a container from Brazil is more than double the amount charged in Europe: US$ 2,215 in Brazil and US$ 1,028 in Europe.

Despite the logistical chaos of entering and exiting Brazilian ports, bureaucracy remains the main problem, according to a survey of users conducted by ILOS, the Institute of Logistics and Supply Chain.

None of the problems, however, were addressed by the recent Provisional Measure of the Ports, a bill approved after a political battle in the National Congress.

The role of the ports

Implanted in 34 ports since 2010, the program Paperless Ports has ended up creating more bureaucracy, not less. “Because government agencies did not adhere to the plan, companies are obliged to enter the data themselves into an electronic system and deliver them physically, on paper. This is worse than before,” said Luis Resano, president of Syndarma, the national syndicate of maritime navigation companies.

Resano is an expert on the subject. From 2007 to 2010, he was the director of information systems for the Special Secretariate of Ports and was among those responsible for constructing the program, which has not succeeded.

Paperless Port creates a network through which all government agencies can access information on ships, crew and cargo. The tax authority, however, does not use this system.

Miracle Work

“The government exaggerates when it calls the MP of the Ports the salvation of the sector,” says Paulo Resende, logistics professor at the Fundação Dom Cabral.

“The provisional measure is a modernizing force in that it will increase competition between public and private ports. But the port itself is only the point of origin and the destination,” says Resende.

Logistics, Resende says, require integration among ports, roadways, railways, and storage facilities — something the provisional measure has neglected.

The chaos that has returned to the access roads to the Port of Santos, on Thursday and Friday, shows that lack of planning is a chronic problem.

Infrastructure is also precarious. The Via Anchieta, the principal access road to the largest port in Latin America, is practically the same roadway inaugurated in 1947, according to Resende. Today, the Anchieta is the only access road for trucks entering the ports.

Government measures to improve the internal performance of and access to the ports remain timid or misguided, says Paulo Fleury, director-general of ILOS.

Fleury points to two examples of inefficiency:  thePorto 24 Horas program and the integration of ports and railways. Porto 24 Horas was a hasty creation of the government in response to the congestion affecting the truckers of Santos, caused by a vastly expanded grain harvest.

“The government created Porto 24 horas in 48 hours, but forgot to hire people for the tax authority and the public health authority, Anvisa. They should have worked until sunrise. The terminal operator is left waiting for the bureaucrat to wake up,” says Fleury.

The construction of railroads connected to ports is one of the aims of the National Logistics Plan. The government is preparing to offer concessions to build 10,000 km of railways, investing R$ 91 billion over 30 years.

“The government lacks any serious study of where the railway terminals will be located. If the terminal is not situated properly, rail transport becomes more expensive than trucking,” Fleury says.

The Other Side

Government is not backing away from Porto 24 Horas. In a recent interview with the Folha, Leônidas Cristino, Minister of Ports, said the government would acquire the manpower and equipment needed to make the regulatory agencies work full time.

Regarding the problems with the Paperless Port program, the minister had no comment. Codesp — Companhia Docas do Estado de São Paulo — says that as the state administrator of docks, it requires six documents from the shipping lines and importers entering the port.

The list of documents multiplies with information demanded by other agencies, such as the federal police, the tax authority, the public health agency, the Capitania dos Portos, and Vigiagro, which oversees imports and exports of agricultural products.

Sought for comment, the tax authority preferred not to comment on the criticisms because it is not part of Paperless Port.

EPL  — Empresa de Pesquisa e Logística — also refused comment on delays in the program of railway concessions and the lack of studies of terminals in railway projects that are part of the National Logistics Plan.

Data integration system, Porto sem Papel (Paperless Port)

Data integration system, Porto sem Papel (Paperless Port)

The SIngle-Window View, currently under construction

The SIngle-Window View, currently under construction