Brazil is a prominent member of the BRIC-countries, and is a world leader in the export of iron ore and steel products. The country has benefited from the spectacular rise in commodity prices at the start of the 21st century. Such an increased demand for natural resources made it necessary to expand Brazil’s port infrastructure, and various new initiatives were undertaken by the Brazilian government, and by private local and foreign investors in Brazil.
In 2005, the Brazilian government launched its ‘Agenda Portos’ to modernize the country’s port infrastructure. Modernizing the Port of Sepetiba was one of the priority objectives of this overall programme. Sepetiba is located on the southern coast of the state of Rio de Janeiro and is potected by the natural barrier of the Marambaia sandbank. Following a major privatization process of all Brazilian ports which had started in 1995, the Sepetiba Project was one of the largest dredging contracts in Brazil that has been awarded to European companies.
The dredging and reclamation contract at the Port of Sepetiba was awarded by Companhia Siderúrgica do Atlantico (CSA), which constructed a steel mill in Sepetiba with an export capacity of 5 million tonnes per year. CSA is a joint-venture of German steelmaker ThyssenKrupp Stahl AG and Vale S.A., the largest diversified mining company in the Americas and the largest producer of iron ore and pellets in the world.
The contract called for dredging a harbor basin and access channel, and for reclaiming land on which the new steel plant would be constructed. A total of 12 million m³ had to be removed and 1,8 million m³ of embankments were constructed. Besides a cutter suction dredger, two large booster stations had to be deployed for bridging the 11 km distance between the far ends of the access channel and the reclamation site.
A particular challenge was the presence of metal residues from the former Companhia Mercantil e Industrial Inga zinc smelter, which had to be removed as part of this dredging contract.