The Port of Santos opened in 1892, handling a total of 125 thousand tons of cargo. The Port of Santos has continued to grow through several eras of commercial shipping. Since opening, the Port of Santos has handled over one billion tons of cargo. Major cargo types handled by the Port of Santos include coffee, sugar, cotton, oranges, wheat, corn, soy, citrus juices and pulp, alcohol, paper, fertilizer, coal, and vehicles. The Brazilian government created the Compania Docas do Estado de Sao Paulo (CODESP), or the Dock Company of the State of Sao Paulo, in 1980.
The Port of Santos is Brazil's largest port. In fact, it is the largest port in South America. Since 1994, the volume of cargo handled by the Port of Santos has more than doubled. Today, the Port of Santos handles well over 90 million tons of cargo per year.
The Port of Santos covers an area of 770 hectares, with 400 hectares on the Left Bank of the Estuary of Santos and 370 hectares on the Right Bank. The Port of Santos contains 13 kilometers (8.1 miles) of quays containing 49 public berths and ten private berths. The Port of Santos contains 100 kilometers (62.1 miles) of railway and 55 kilometers (34.2 miles) of pipelines. There is storage capacity for almost 5.9 million barrels (700 thousand cubic meters) of liquid bulk cargo and over 2.5 million tons of dry bulk cargo. The Port of Santos has its own hydroelectric power plant.
Almost all of Sao Paulo's industrial base is located less than 200 kilometers (124.3 miles) from the Port of Santos. The Port of Santos' primary area of influence includes the States of Sao Paulo, Goias, Minas Gerais, Mato Grosso, and Mato Grosso do Sul. Its secondary hinterlands include the States of Bahia, Espirito Santo, Tocantins, Parana, Rio de Janeiro, Rio Grande do Sul, and Santa Catarina.
Seven anchorages serve vessels coming to and leaving the Port of Santos. The Port of Santos' internal anchorage/berthage is designed for day use by vessels with a maximum draft of nine meters (29.5 feet). Anchorage/Berthage No. 1 is dedicated for warships. Anchorage/Berthage No. 2 is designated for ships that need sanitary inspection or clearances and will not stay at port for more than three hours. Anchorage/Berthage No. 3 is used by vessels scheduled to berth within 24 hours, and Anchorage/Berthage No. 4 is used by vessels in the Port of Santos without a specific schedule for berthing. Anchorage/Berthage No. 5 is used by ships that are not scheduled for the Port of Santos, and Anchorage/Berthage No. 6 is designated for vessels that must be quarantined.
Despite the global financial crisis that started in 2008, the Port of Santos' cargo volume has continued to increase. In 2010, the Port of Santos handled a record of almost 97.2 million tons of cargo. Devaluation of the dollar stimulated increases in the volume of imports and reduced the share of exports to its lowest point since 2002.
In 2011, 5874 ships called at the Port of Santos carrying over 96 million tons of cargo. Cargo volume in 2011 included more than 45 million tons of solid bulk, over 36 million tons of general cargo, and almost 16.1 million tons of liquid bulk cargoes. Vessels calling at the Port of Santos included 306 passenger ships, a 10% increase over 2010, and over 1.1 million passengers.
The major cargo types moving through the Port of Santos in 2011 included sugar (almost 17 million tons, a decrease of almost 13% from 2010), soy beans (almost 9.8 million tons, an increase of almost 17% over 2010), corn (nearly 4.6 million tons, a 17.8% decrease from 2010), and 437.5 million vehicles (a new record and 26% greater than in 2010).
Containerized cargo (over 2.7 million TEUs) moving through the Port of Santos in 2010 amounted to 2.5 million tons, 2.3 million tons being carried by ocean-going vessels. Containers were handled at six Port of Santos terminals. The Tecon-1 Terminal handled over 889.6 thousand containers. Terminal 35 in the Port of Santos handled more than 302.7 thousand containers. The Port of Santos' Tecondi Terminal handled 265.5 thousand containers. The Port of Santos' Terminal 37 handled almost 177.3 thousand containers. The Rodrimar Terminal handled nearly 118.7 thousand containers, and other points in the Port of Santos handled more than 17.3 thousand containers.
Foreign imports grew in the Port of Santos grew in 2011, with cargoes arriving from 185 developing countries and 35 developed countries. Imports from developing countries increased by almost 18%, while imports from developed countries fell almost 5%. Imports from Russia increased 69.4% and imports from China grew by 22.6%. Import volumes also increased from Argentina (up 21.5%) and Venezuela (up 26.9%). Imports from Canada increased by 23%, from the United States by 2.7%, and from Italy by 11.6%.
Exports moving through the Port of Santos decreased by 4% in 2011. Exports going to 184 developing countries fell 2.5%, particularly those destined for Egypt (-21%) and Iran (-10%). These decreases were offset by increased exports to China (+23%), Saudi Arabia (+57%), and Thailand (+67%). Exports to 36 developed countries fell by almost 3% in 2011. Exports to Spain fell by almost 19%, and those going to Belgium fell by nearly 14%. Exports to Japan increased 17%, and exports destined for the United States increased by 15.4% Exports to Holland also increased (+5.8%).
In 1993, the Brazilian government recognized that the centralized control the Port of Santos by the Santos Dock Company and, later, CODESP inhibited the port's competitiveness and efficiency. Law 8.630/93 authorized CODESP to pre-qualify private companies to load/unload cargoes in the Port of Santos, de-monopolizing operational services. Today, more than 60 terminals in the Port of Santos area are operated by the private sector. In 1997, the Port of Santos began to operate continuously (24 hours a day) in order to efficiently meet growing demands for the flow of cargo.
In the first decade of the 21st Century, CODESP announced plans to expand the port. The first step is to dredge the Port of Santos canal to a depth of 17 meters (55.8 feet) and to add new terminals on both sides of the canal, particularly on the Right Bank of the estuary of Santos.
The second step is to create space by landfill and to modernize some of the existing berths in the Port of Santos. The largest development is building the Embraport terminal with five berths and an annual capacity to handle 1.2 million TEUs of containerized cargo, two million tons of grain, 200 thousand cars, and almost 42 million barrels (five million cubic meters) of liquid bulk cargo.
Expansion plans for the Port of Santos also include eight new berths to handle containers and solid bulk cargoes and additional dock access roads on both sides of the estuary. The Barnabe-Bagres project involves adding 600 hectares to the Port of Santos and 48 new berths to handle all cargo types.
In the past, the government concentrated on building roads and ignored railways. This led to most of the Port of Santos' cargo being transported by truck in a city of 17 million people. The volume of truck traffic created so much chaos that the Mayor limited the hours during which trucks could travel. Today, a new loop road is being constructed that will link the major highways in the area. Anticipating further growth in the volume of cargo moving through the Port of Santos, the government is planning a new road system to link the coast with inland areas. Still, the Port of Santos needs more railway support as well as additional marshaling yards and distribution centers.
Recent discovery of under-sea oil and gas deposits will likely lead to additional and significant growth in the Port of Santos. The State oil company, Petróleo Brasileiro (or Petrobras), has purchased land and is constructing office buildings to support exploitation of that resource.