Cabotage is navigation between ports in the same country, and is opposed to long-distance navigation, which is carried out between ports in different countries. The term derives from the surname of Sebastião Caboto, a 16th century Venetian navigator, who explored the Rio Prata in search of the mystical Serra da Prata.
Brazil is a continental country, with around 8 thousand kilometers of coastline. Nothing is more expected than using this natural road to transport cargo. In recent years, Cabotage has grown at an accelerated pace in Brazil. The pandemic impaired this growth rate a little, but little by little the trend has been resuming.
In the last decade, around 20 vessels registered under the Brazilian flag were acquired, with an investment of around R$3.5 billion. These are investments in state-of-the-art ships, comparable to the best in the world, which provide sophisticated services. Today we have a fleet of more than 70 Brazilian-flagged ships, which generate taxes and jobs for the country, and the security of always being able to count on Brazilian shipping companies, regardless of variations in the international market.
In 2022, 1.3 million TEUs were moved between ports along the Brazilian coast. This corresponds to more than 1 million road trips that were not made last year. If we put this volume in trucks touching the bumpers, it would be 15,000 km or 5 lines of trucks from São Paulo to Fortaleza.
Cabotage offers several advantages. It transports everything from helicopters to television, from wind blades to biofuels, from ore and grains to clothing, with predictable delivery. It has a lower risk of breakdowns and theft, with the potential to reduce 10,000 accidents/year, and a consequent reduction in insurance costs. To give you an idea, in 455 thousand operations last year, there were only 13 robberies, totaling 0.04 robberies per 1000 operations, and 20 accidents. In 2021 the rate was even lower, with 0.01 robberies/1000 operations. Cabotage is also environmentally sustainable, as it emits 4 times less CO2 compared to other modes of transport, and causes fewer environmental accidents, with greater control and accountability.
With efficient door-to-door multimodal transport solutions, cabotage offers many facilities to the customer, with adequate and safe handling of cargo, carrying out all logistical planning, absorbing bureaucracy and guaranteeing supply at the agreed time. Delivery on time has been more than 90% in the last 3 years. In bulk transport and special projects, transport is designed and executed according to the customer’s needs, with customized solutions, offering efficiency and safety in the transport of loads that deserve special attention.
In addition to all this, cabotage, due to its efficiency, its multimodal nature, its predictability and safety in delivery, and lower risk of accidents, has a competitive cost, especially over long distances, and shorter distances, when large volumes of cargo are involved. It also reduces the country’s cost of highway maintenance, as it has a ready road: its 8 thousand km of navigable coastline.
According to a 2018 study by the Ilos Institute, for every 1 container currently in cabotage, there are another 4.8 that would be captured by the waterway mode in the country. The Institute also states that 21% of large Brazilian industries, those that move the largest volume of cargo, intend to change mode: leaving the road transport and opting for cabotage in the coming years. According to data from the same institute, from 2022, Brazil has 63% of production being transported by highways, 19% of production passing through national railways, while water transport moves only 13% of cargo. In terms of comparison, in China, 44% of production is transported by waterway. In other words, there is still a lot of space to be occupied by cabotage.