News / 23 september 2014

Suape, Brazil: a stone in the pond

The successes of Both ENDS’ work are usually the result of prolonged efforts. The same goes for our endeavours in Suape, Brazil. This week, Wiert Wiertsema and a representative from partner-organisation SOMO took off to Brazil to support another milestone. Around thirty parties from different states in the country, including environmental organisations, lawyers and of course, representatives of the Forum Suape as well, gathered in the port. This shows that the social movement that has risen as a reaction to the disastrous expansion of the port and industrialisation is also slowly taking shape elsewhere in Brazil. The saga of Suape seems to have become a stone cast in the pond of Brazilian environmental politics.

The event will play an important role in encouraging collaborations between Brazilian civil society organisations dealing with similar situations. Both ENDS and SOMO are co-organising and co-financing a workshop which is to be given during the meeting. It is likely that delegates of the Dutch dredging company Van Oord, which has  in Suape, will also be present.

What will be happening in Suape this week?

Wiert Wiertsema: “This week will be about exchanging information, about Suape as well as similar environmental and human rights problems in Rio de Janeiro, and in the states of Rio Grande and Ceará. We will inform each other about the responsibility of companies and investors, about UN guidelines for companies and human rights, OECD rules, and the private investment institution of the World Bank, the IFC. Afterwards, we will give a briefing about how different complaints mechanisms at investment banks and credit insurers work. This will be practiced as well.”


What is the status quo in Suape?

 “Petrobas’ oil refinery in the port of Suape has almost been finished. Officially, the refinery should be ready to operate at the start of 2015. However, the costs have risen to US$20 billion, while initially a mere US$2,5 billion had been calculated as sufficient. It seems that nepotism and corruption are behind this huge rise in expenditure. The current president, Dilma Rousseff, was the highest in charge at Petrobas during the procurement of the refinery. That is why this affair will be a heavy burden for her during the upcoming elections. Also, tens of thousands of immigrant workers from different parts of Brazil have worked on the construction of the refinery. But since the work is essentially done, these workers have been fired. And as usual, of course, not many employment opportunities are readily available in the region. In short, a huge unemployment problem has arisen in Suape.”


And what about Van Oord?

 “Although the oil refinery is almost finished, it is uncertain whether it will be operational as of next year. The reason is that the dredging work, which should result in an access channel to the port of Suape, has not been finalised by Van Oord. Large oil tankers that are expected to arrive cannot yet enter the port whilst transporting oil. As a result, a claim of €40 million has been filed. Van Oord is expecting to see a new procurement after the elections, so that dredging can be finished. The company would like to take part again because they feel they have the best know-how. My answer to the question of whether any payments have been made, was no. According to Van Oord, that should be dealt with by the credit insurance company Atradius DSB.”


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