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Tessa Major, Port of Açu: COVID-19 response for ports


Ahead of the IAPH/IHS Markit port community builder webinar on 16 September, Tessa Major, of the Brazilian Port of Açu, and Patrick Verhoeven, IAPH, spoke to P&H editor Ines Nastali about the COVID-19 response for ports and how it is helping to form the association’s future work.


“When I started in the position of regional vice president for Central and South America within IAPH, it was with the commitment to show that a young port can be a proactive leader,” said Tessa Major, director of international business and innovation at the Port of Açu in Brazil, describing her vision of what she wanted to achieve with the port. Before she took on her current role, Major already served as commercial director for two years at the port, which became operational in 2014.


She got the chance to prove herself and the port’s work sooner than she anticipated. “I didn’t imagine that the vice presidency of Port of Açu would be able to make such a global impact in such as short term,” she admitted.


This was possible because COVID-19 hit and Major stepped into action. Not only did she start up a new department at the port, focussing on international business, after two years as commercial director, the Belgian national also became member of the IAPH board at the beginning of 2020.


The pandemic and the associated taskforce within IAPH, which Major chairs, has shown that co-operation is important. “We see our role as a port developer and community builder, being the economic engine of the region,” Major said, which comes with a certain responsibility for the people living there. So, while the port itself was able to remain open and continue its business, Major and her team ensured that citizens were cared for by, for example, donating personal protective equipment and tonnes of food. The port also sponsored the repair of lung ventilators to ensure proper equipment was available in the region.


Regarding the port’s future business, some of the deals that Major had arranged when she served as commercial director, have now come into fruition.


Part of this are two new deals the port was able to strike in August 2020. The first one is with engineering company OceanPact to set up one emergency response as well as a general offshore logistics hub within the port, including dredging and berth construction works.

With this deal, the port confirmed its status as oil and gas hub, but it also looks to expand away from pure fossil fuels. One of its other clients, GNA, together with the port’s strategic development group Prumo, energy players BP, Siemens, and SPIC, will further develop existing liquefied natural gas (LNG)-to-power projects. This GNA I–IV project series is expected to be fuelled by a combination of LNG and gas from Brazilian pre-salt reserves. “I can’t begin to explain how proud I am of my colleagues that we were able to facilitate these deals in economically challenging times,” Major said.


Future plans include the production of green hydrogen and ammonia in the port. For Major, sustainability is a business model. “We see sustainability as a business differentiator towards competitors and it’s part of the value proposition of the Port of Açu,” she explained.

At the same time, she said, the topic does not yet have the same level of importance in Latin America than it has in, for example, Europe or North America.


With contingency plans in place for ports to deal with COVID-19 and her port set-up for the future, Major now focusses on fostering further collaboration among the IAPH membership.

This article is an excerpt of the P&H September/October edition. Read the full feature by signing up to receive P&H here.


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