Feb 22, 2023

"Mega" Tow Moves Grain Through Brazil's "Northern Arc" of Ports

Author: Michael Cordonnier/Soybean & Corn Advisor, Inc.

A big change in Brazilian logistics in recent years has been the development of the "Northern Arc" of ports on the Amazon River and along the northeastern Atlantic Coast. The amount of grain barged out of the Port of Itaituba, Para on the Tapajos River to the Port of Barcarena at the mouth of the Amazon River continues to increase annually.

The Port of Itaituba sits at the end of Highway BR-163 which is the main route for moving soybean and corn north out of Mato Grosso. Currently, highway BR-163 is the only way to move grain north out of Mato Grosso to the central Amazon, but eventually, a railroad is scheduled to be built alongside the highway as well. Work on the railroad has not started and when it does, construction would take 5-7 years.

The increased grain volume is exemplified by the company Hidrovias do Brasil, which started operating a tow of 35 barges between the two ports last week (see picture below). This is the largest tow in Brazil and it can transport 70,000 tons, which is an increase of 40% compared to their prior tows of 25 barges. This mega tow is 346 meters long and 75 meters wide and is expected to operate between January through August when the water levels on the Tapajos River is adequate.

This mega tow will reduce carbon emissions by saving 10% on the amount of fuel needed to transport a ton of grain between the two ports. It also represents tremendous savings compared to truck transport because the mega tow can transport the equivalent of 1,666 trucks.

Hidrovias do Brasil is the leading barge operator serving Brazil's northern ports. It also operates barging operations on the Parana and Paraguay Rivers in southern Brazil and northern Argentina. Below is a picture of the mega tow operated by Hidrovias do Brasil on the Amazon River.