January 2011

21 January 2011
Açu Superport
Rob Fisher

The Açu Superport is a big port in Brazil. And it’s private. We’re not used to such things being private in the UK.

Located in São João da Barra, in the north of the State of Rio de Janeiro, the Açu Superport is a private mixed-use port terminal that will have 10 docking berths; four for iron ore, two for oil-handling, one for coal and three for steel products, slag, granite and pig iron. With a depth of 18.5 metres, reaching 21 meters in a second stage, the Superport will have a bridge 2.9 kilometers long and will allow the mooring of Capesize vessels with capacities up to 220,000 tonnes. The port has great potential for the Oil and Gas industry due to its proximity to the Campos Basin.

The project is currently under construction and is scheduled to begin operations in 2012.

It’s being built by Brazil’s richest man.

Eike Batista, a mining mogul and Brazil’s richest man, dreamed up the idea for the Acu Superport because he was fed up with the delays in getting iron ore from his mines onto ships bound for China.


“Brazil is a gigantic opportunity to arbitrage inefficiencies,” he said.

That mindset gives me a sense of how he got to be so rich. And he gets things done:

A logistics corridor of 45 km, consisting of transmission lines, water, gas and telecom pipelines, railroad and highway, will connect the Açu Superport to the city of Campos. his logistics corridor will be able to handle up to 100 thousand vehicles per day, equivalent to 36 hours of traffic leaving Rio across the Rio-Niterói Bridge.

The port is for trading with China. The BBC has an unsurprisingly negative attitude.

A recent study found that more than 80% of Brazil’s manufactured exports are being adversely affected by competition from China.

That is a real danger to the Brazilian economy because mining and commodities are not very labour intensive. The bulk of the Brazilian workforce is employed in manufacturing industries.

The problem is that, natural resources aside, Brazil has a similar competitive advantage to China - cheap unskilled labour.

It could be that Brazil is on its way up, and will leave its manufacturing behind like other rich countries.

08 January 2011
EU road haulier regulations suspended
Brian Micklethwait

The surprise for me, in this story about how the Road Hauliers of Britain Saved Christmas, came right at the end:

Between December 24th and 27th, the Department for Transport made the decision to temporarily relax the hours of EU drivers and working-time rules for hauliers directly responsible for the delivery of food to UK distribution centres and shops, to ensure that supplies were received on time.

So, what about the rest of the year?  Does our local government have greater powers to “suspend” EU regulations than it usually lets on?  Was this not the worst time of year, from the road safety point of view, to be relaxing safety regulations?  Were there lots more accidents, and if not ...?

07 January 2011
£50 congestion charge
Rob Fisher

Spotted on the back of a commuter’s Evening Standard last night, an article about Green London mayor candidate Jenny Jones:

“You have to raise the congestion charge by more than £10,” she said. “It’s quite an elastic amount people are prepared to pay it. You have to put it up to a level where people will think hard about paying it. If you put it up to £25, or £50, I’d say you’re starting to get to grips with the problem.” Ms Jones set out plans for a road pricing scheme that would cover the whole of London with a sliding price structure, charging £5 to travel around Zone 6 but up to 10 times that to travel into the city centre.

It’ll never happen…

06 January 2011
GM sales
Rob Fisher

Instapundit links to a blog post on The Truth About Cars which analyses GM’s sales figures. It argues that while some of bailed out GM’s brands do well, Chevrolet does not, and relies on fleet sales which are not as reliable. I don’t know about this, although I do notice that GM has lost market share and has not grown sales as much as other car makers over the last year.  What I find really interesting, though, is this comment:

How sick is it that the President’s press secretary is promoting GM through Twitter?  Does anyone else not see what a slippery slope this is, and how unfair it is to other privately owned car manufacturers? I’m sure other car companies can expect a fair shake from the US Government.

Indeed. Here is the tweet, which only mentions GM, even though the article it links to is about all car makers’ sales. Is this normal in America?

03 January 2011
Outrage as trackside teas rise by 6%
Patrick Crozier

The annual rise in train station tea and coffee prices will see an inflation-busting average hike of 6.2% while some prices, particularly for popular lattes and double espressos will rise by a whopping 10%.

A spokesman for train station cafe-operator, National Espresso said that the price rises, which are regulated on an inflation plus 1% basis, were needed to pay for the new high-speed coffee machines.

But these remarks were condemned by the drinker watchdog, Frappucino Focus.  In a statement they said: “This will simply drive more people out of stations and into roadside cafes.”

Meanwhile the junior beverage minister explained that government cut backs meant that more revenue had to come from consumers.  “While we regret these rises, caffeine-addicts must understand that we are all in this together in these straitened times.”

It wasn’t difficult to find outrage among consumers. “This is outrageous.”  said one.  “I am outraged.” said another.  A commuter said: “They have the cheek to put up their prices like this and we still can’t find a seat.”

Patrick Crozier of TeapotBlog said: “This was never a problem before the government got involved with its subsidies, regulations and fare controls.  The choice and quality of teas and coffees available to commuters were second to none and no one had a problem getting a seat.  Thank goodness we don’t have any of this nonsense anywhere else on the railways.”