PARANAGUA, Brazil, Sept. 9 (Xinhua) -- Since China Merchants Port (CMP) set up shop in Paranagua, things have picked up in this small southern Brazilian city of 151,000 residents.
In February, the company acquired a 30-year concession for 90 percent of the Paranagua Container Terminal (TCP), the country's second largest, and launched operations there, including expansion work to handle Brazil's growing commerce with China.
"We have everything to develop China-Brazil ties even more. We are expanding the terminal to raise the annual shipment of 1.5 million containers to 2.4 million," TCP's CEO Luiz Antonio Alves told Xinhua. "We are investing 165 million U.S. dollars to expand the port by 1,100 meters, and that will bring development to the whole region.
Underwater drilling machines have been working nonstop to install the pillars needed to expand the dock in Paranagua Bay, located 91 km east of Curitiba, capital of Parana state.
The project puts Paranagua on the map of the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), which aims to promote trade and development along the ancient Silk Road routes and beyond by building a network of infrastructure across continents.
The TCP employs about 1,000 people, and generates another 3,000 direct and indirect jobs, according to Alves.
"This has an impact on the whole city of Paranagua and on the state of Parana by improving logistics, rail lines and highways. We are generating wealth among the local population," Alves said.
Lu Yongxin, CMP's vice president, explained why the company chose Paranagua as its foothold in Latin America.
"In Brazil, the main ports are on the coasts of the states of Sao Paulo, Parana and Santa Catarina. These three states are in the TCP's sphere of operations. (They) account for 45 percent of Brazil's population, and concentrate 48 percent of its gross domestic product. That's why we chose to invest in Paranagua's terminal," Lu said.
The TCP's financial chief Luiz Alberto Bressan, who just returned from four weeks of training in China, said he expects closer ties between Brazil and China.
"China continued to invest in Brazil ... despite tough times (for) the Brazilian economy. Through the TCP, we are expecting stepped-up exchange, stepped-up shipments and stepped-up importing from China," he said.
Bressan said he values Brazil's inclusion in the BRI because it opens up opportunities for more investment and business.
In addition to the TCP, Paranagua is home to a public container terminal that handles grain shipments, mainly to China, and auto exports to Mercosur (Southern Common Market) countries.
Luiz Teixeira, director of operations of the Paranagua Port Authority, said the port moved 51.5 million tons of goods in 2017 and expects to see a 2-percent increase this year.
Over 19 million tons of soy, corn and soy meal were exported in 2017, and the volume is expected to go up to 20 million tons this year.
"This is the country's second leading port, after Santos (in Sao Paulo), and of strategic importance to Brazil's economy," Teixeira said.
The BRI, launched five years ago, is helping to draw investment and bolster infrastructure, he said.
"All of this investment doesn't just generate market confidence, it also generates positive needs, such as infrastructure, and that boosts our activity in Paranagua," he said.