Figueira Port: a present for the future
The port of Figueira da Foz is pivotal to our operations as over 50% of Altri’s pulp sales are carried through this hub (54% in 2019). As well as pulp, Figueira is also the location of the group’s regular eucalyptus round timber unloading operation and also its lignosulphonate exports.
This means we are the port’s biggest customer, accounting for around 40% of the tonnage handled in Figueira. It is therefore crucial to monitor the health of this port and its surroundings: Altri plays a very active role in this, both via the direct interest we hold in the capital of the main port operator working at Figueira da Foz (Operfoz) and through our active participation in the Port Community, over which we currently preside.
Past and present
The port of Figueira da Foz broke the psychological barrier of 2 million tons in 2013, and reached its alltime high in 2014. The growth “miracle” recorded between 2008 and 2014, which justified investment to extend the north jetty, dealt some impressive figures: in 2014 over 1 million more tons were handled than in 2008 (+87%).
During that period, Altri was making major investments at all our industrial units, particularly at Celbi, and that increased capacity would be exported via Figueira and would constitute a decisive contribution towards the aforementioned “miracle”.
In 2014, the group was channelling over 630,000 more tons through Figueira than in 2008, and accounted for the lion’s share of the port’s growth. We simultaneously held a convincing lead over other companies moving goods through the port, averaging 40%.
In the last five years, movements at Figueira have tailed off by a yearly average of 1.4%, which would not jeopardise the port’s sustainability model which was designed to operate at over 1.8 million tons. This performance is justified by three factors:
- The lack of new regional industrial projects impacting port activity;
- Heavy dependency of cargo segments decreasing, namely break bulk cargo and other dry bulk (91%), which have fallen off sharply in Portugal in the last 5 years;
- Small presence in the containerised cargo segment, which grew at a rate of 7% per year, and where we represent a domestic share of just 0.5%.
Although one of the port’s strengths is that its natural hinterland has anchor cargo which enables it to maintain its current activity, its growth is stifled by its limited marine access (6.5 metres draft; length over all of 120 metres) and from the instability of this access (there are still recurring episodes where draft is reduced further).
It is therefore important, in order to leverage the port’s activity, to work on the marine access limitations. It is against this backdrop that the new project has been put together, to enhance the port’s marine access.
With an investment of 19 million euros and completion scheduled for 2021, this project envisages increasing the draught from 6.5 metres to 8 metres, thereby allowing for 140 metre vessels (as opposed to the 120 m currently received).
According to the underlying business plan, there is enough economic activity taking place in the port’s natural hinterland to justify such an investment. Moreover, the new forms of commercial protectionism open up a new paradigm for the regional activity of the port and it is predicted that there will be an even greater modal shift to shortdistance marine transport, given how far ahead it is in terms of sustainability.
The port’s stakeholders therefore have reason to be optimistic regarding the success of this initiative, given that it will put marine access on a higher footing allowing it to compete for larger ships – namely container ships, according to the survey.
But we must all be fully aware that after this investment has been made the amount of cargo being channelled through Figueira’s port has to increase otherwise we risk ending up with a less competitive and unsustainable port.