Wind of change in Brazil's sails

October 17, 1997

ABRAZILIAN transport ministry economist who completed her thesis at a British university earlier this year has had a profound effect on Brazilian shipping legislation to make the country's fleet more competitive.

Eliane Areas Fadda's ideas were incorporated into the law recently passed by the Brazilian congress regarding coastal shipping (cabotage) and a Brazilian register of shipping.

Ms Fadda, who works in the maritime affairs section of the Brazilian ministry of transport, successfully completed a five-year DPhil on Brazilian coastal shipping in 2010 at the University of Wales, Cardiff, where she was supervised by Richard Goss.

This month she presented her ideas to the International Association of Maritime Economists conference in London, at the City University business school.

Professor Goss was impressed with Ms Fadda's eye for detail. "She is the most meticulous student I have ever encountered. I have never seen anyone maintain such a command of detail as she worked through the long, complicated history of the government's policies towards Brazilian coastal shipping.

"For a number of reasons Brazil seemed to have a great bias away from coastwise transport and towards inland road transport."

Professor Goss, who teaches at Cardiff's department of maritime studies and international transport, said that Ms Fadda, whose first degree was an MSc in transport planning at the Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro, covered the past and present developments in exemplary scholarly fashion and then came up with scenarios for the future.

Ms Fadda's 364-page paper, presented to her Cardiff examiners, was an investigation into the convoluted state of Brazilian coastal shipping.

Road transport dominates in Brazil even though some 90 per cent of the 155 million population live within 500 kilometres of the long coastline and road infrastructure is inadequate.

This century Brazil's various army-backed governments thought road development was the best way to move troops around the country. Brazil's leaders, for geopolitical reasons, also needed to populate its vast interior, and again roads were the desired means.

Brazil's ports are among the world's most expensive and unionised, and lack modern equipment such as cranes. Inflation rates of up to 3,000 per cent only five years ago also contributed to lack of investment, as investors were keener to play the money markets.

But all that is changing, Ms Fadda says, with inflation at less than 10 per cent a year and the government and private firms spending one billion Reals (Pounds 562 million) on various port and transport projects.

Part of Ms Fadda's method in tracking the decline and looking at possible policy options for the future was to use the delphi and scenario writing methods of technological forecasting.

She explained: "From a range of possible qualitative scenarios, the next objective is to define a preferred future that depends on appropriate policy options being taken up."

The lack of long-range studies led decision-makers throughout the years to adopt the wrong, short-term policies. Now her declared aim is to "influence actors to remove obstacles to shipping".

Ms Fadda has drawn up a nine-point plan to enable the government to improve Brazil's under-developed general cargo coastal shipping, and to take it forward to 2010.

After university she joined a consultancy firm and then went to work in the merchant marine department of the ministry of transport. The ministry gave her leave to spend time in Britain and in Brazil researching her thesis, and then she came under the wing of Professor Goss, Ronald Barston and other marine studies and transport specialists at Cardiff.

Last October she began to send the findings of her research to one of the key architects of the new law, Jose Carlos Aleluia. Mr Aleluia is a deputy in the party of Brazilian president Fernando HenriqueCardoso.

He adopted many of her conclusions and distilled them into legislation that has been passed by the Brazilian senate as Law 9432, which is now shaking up the shipping and trade world.

It is hoped that the laws will make Brazilian-flagged shipping more competitive so that it can increase its 6.8 per cent share of general cargo-carrying imports into the country. It is also hoped that more freight will be moved off the roads and on to the sea, thereby reducing pollution and traffic accidents.

Ms Fadda said: "There were three successive versions of the law, and the third version was, very clearly, based on what I had written."

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