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Government creates task force to boost shipbuilding industry in Bahia
The Bahia state government has set up a task force, through the Department of Economic Development (SDE), to boost the state’s shipbuilding industry. The focus is on resuming operations at the Enseada shipyard, built and licensed in Maragojipe in the Recôncavo region of Bahia. The only 5th generation shipyard in Brazil, equipped with cutting-edge technology and high productivity, Enseada was once the home of opportunities, employing 7,400 people, mostly from the Recôncavo region. The idea is to attract investors and partnerships, as well as institutional support, to the project in order to create jobs and generate income for the region once again.
The largest shipyard in the country, spread on an area of 1.6 million square meters, with the capacity to process 100,000 tons of steel per shift/year and the potential to create 4,000 jobs, Enseada drove the local development of the Recôncavo region at the height of its operations, which began in 2012. To have an idea of its history, the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of Maragojipe jumped from R$ 194 million to R$753 million, or 272%, in three years. Also, between 2012 and 2015, more than 7,000 companies opened in the region, according to data from the Commercial Registry of Bahia (JUCEB). The shareholders behind the foundation of Enseada invested R$ 3 billion in the project at that time. Today, the 35 employees based in the shipyard take care of maintenance of the equipment at the plant, located on the banks of the Paraguaçu River.
“We have to make this important asset function. There isn’t a single person who is not moved by this scenario. This is a project that demanded very heavy investments, drove the state’s economy, but which suffered a setback on account of the domestic oil and shipbuilding crisis. Our government’s first step is to set up this forum to discuss how to restructure this sector of our economy. There are conditions for a hopeful and viable environment, since the technology and production potential of the shipyard are solid,” said Luiza Maia, state secretary of Economic Development.
The commitment to set up the task force, or working group, which should include other departments, was made last Tuesday (Sept. 5) during a visit by officials from the SDE to the Enseada Indústria Naval. At the time, the president of the project, Maurício de Almeida, highlighted that the shipyard was prepared to build highly complex ships and changed the scenario of the Recôncavo region of Bahia through qualified local labor.
“During four months, more than 100 employees from the shipyard and who were local residents were sent to Japan for training. Some of them lived from fishing and became specialists in shipbuilding. Today, many of them are working in shipyards in Rio de Janeiro and others in Rio Grande do Sul. In other words, we exported qualified labor to other states,” he said. Due to the crisis affecting Brazil, professionals who participated in the transfer of technology during their training in Japan have not yet found a new job and hence have gone back to their traditional fishing activity.
Almeida also supports the local content policy and the change in the commercial approach of the Brazilian government at the national level: “Companies want to acquire ships made in Brazil at the price of ships made in China, but there the government gives subsidies to the industry. How can a country be sovereign if it doesn’t have a strong industry? We believe in Enseada and in the shipbuilding industry and we want to build in Bahia the ships that Brazil needs.”
“More than a shipyard, Enseada has become a large industrial complex and represents, for Bahia, an opportunity for investments, whether in logistics terminals or in manufacturing plants that offer competitive advantages, high technology and industrial automation. All this, due to the overloaded port structure at Baía de Todos os Santos on account of its strategic and privileged geographic location, in sheltered waters, which enables the shipment of cargo through both maritime and road transport,” said Paulo Guimarães, superintendent of Business Attraction and Development at SDE.
Enseada is slowly regaining hope of resuming operations. The shipyard won the contract for maintenance of the drilling rig Norbe VI and is awaiting the results of the bid process to build four warships for the Brazilian Navy. “But it’s still very little. We need to convince the country to manufacture its ships here. Enseada cannot operate without orders,” said Almeida.