The bid for the construction of the new Vasco da Gama terminal at Portugal´s Port of Sines has been delayed until April 2021, according to the administration. The c. EUR 600 million project, which the Government of Portugal wants to include in China´s Belt and Road initiative, is expected to have bids from major international companies, including from China. In the meantime, Sines is moving ahead with the expansion of the existing terminal, operated by PSA Singapore, and wants to created an agro-industry hub for agricultural companies from Brazil.
José Luís Cacho, president of the board of the ports de Sines and Algarve and of the Association of the Ports of Portugal, told local radio station M24 that the Covid-19 pandemic hit the country at a “critical juncture” in the bidding process, when offers were planned to be submitted in July.
Before the submission of bids, meetings were to be held with contestants, and the pandemic meant “conditions changed drastically”, Cacho added. In consultation with the Goverment of Portugal, the Port decided to postpone the tender for another year, until 6 April 2021, to work “within the expectations that the bidders presented”.
The project foresaw that the new infrastructure would be operational in 2025-26, and because the process is “long term”, Cacho says the postponement is “not a matter of concern”. In fact, he adds, additional time could mean more interested parties, depending on how Portugal´s economy recovers.
Even before that, Sines will be positively impacted by the expansion of Terminal XXI, operated by Singapore´s PSA, which will double capacity in 4 to 5 years. Growth is “ensured by this project”, Cacho adds.
In revising its strategic plan for the next few years, which will bring a downturn in the processing of fossil fuels, which today are a major part of the activity, Sines is also “very attentive and trying to boost” plans to set up a hub for agro-industry products from Brazil and other South American countries. According to Cacho, this will include the transformation of agricultural products to supply Southern Europe, North Africa and the Mediterranean region.
“Brazil is an important global agro-industry player, like in soy and corn production, and we are very focused in creating business opportunities with them in Sines”, Cacho told M24.
In February, the Port of Sines stated that the work on the extension of the East Pier of the port, to be completed by the first quarter of 2023, had been awarded to Conduril – Engenharia, with an investment of approximately €72 million.
The contract includes the extension of the breakwater by 750 metres, which will strengthen the protection of the East Zone of the Port of Sines, in particular as regards the next phase of the expansion of the Sines – Terminal XXI container terminal, under the responsibility of the concessionaire PSA Sines. Once this next phase of expansion is complete, Terminal XXI will double its installed capacity to 4.1 million TEUs (1 TEU = 1 20-foot container), which will allow it to project its position internationally.
The Port was recently visited by the Secretary of Energy of the United States of America (USA), Dan Brouillette, accompanied by the Portuguese Minister of Infrastructure and Housing, Pedro Nuno Santos.
The US secretary of state discussed with the Portuguese authorities “The United States’ interest in this auction in particular,” as Sines is “a strategic point” for the USA.
The amendment to the concession contract to award the expansion of Terminal XXI was signed on 12 October 2019, and is a totally private investment by the concessionaire of approximately €661 million.
The former minister of the Sea, Ana Paula Vitorino, was in China in 2018 where she presented the project of the Vasco da Gama Terminal to COSCO and the SIPG – Shanghai International Port Group.
The Minister of Natural Resources of the People’s Republic of China, Lu Hau, visited the Port of Sines in May 2019 for details of the project and its future location.
Vitorino in May 2019 expressed the intention that “Portugal become an integral part of the New Silk Route in its maritime dimension.”
The Sines container terminal (Terminal XXI), has grown steadily, from 2004 (1,332,200 containers TEU) to more than 20 million (TEU) in recent years, which is equivalent to more than an half of the total number of containers moved in Portuguese continental ports and about 80% of the movements corresponding to transshipment cargo (containers unloaded from a ship and loaded on another).
Chinese players, within the One Belt, One Road strategy (access to the global value chain), will have a word to say over the future of Sines, with the new terminal, “Vasco da Gama”.