Brazil’s Maritime Industrial Transportation Opportunity
Brazil’s coastline of some 3,000 nautical miles includes several large cities in a layout that makes Brazil the ideal location to develop, manufacture and operate maritime transportation technology that could also have international market potential.
While Russia is internationally recognized in high-speed maritime transportation technology courtesy of their construction and demonstration of the Caspian Sea Monster ground-effect plane, Russia is also at a disadvantage in terms of testing, demonstrating, domestically operating and improving a commercial version of such technology. Much of Russia’s population lives at western inland locations and not along Russia’s coast. A mega-size commercial freight transport ground effect vehicle might optimally be developed in a nation with an extensive coastline that includes multiple large cities spread along that coastline. The vehicle needs to be proven in domestic coastal transportation service.
The economy of the nation that develops the technology needs to include a transportation manufacturing sector. Brazil has an extensive coastline with multiple large cities and the nation also has a transportation manufacturing sector that includes automobiles, trucks, buses, airplanes and maritime vessels. The Brazilian coastline includes several bays, inlets and river estuaries that each provide a considerable distance of comparatively calm water where a mega-size ground effect vehicle could accelerate over an extended distance to transfer from hulls to hydrofoils and then to ground effect wings upon departure to a distant domestic coastal city.
Suitable Brazilian Port Areas
A group of six cities along Brazil’s coast have bay, inlet and estuaries offer in excess of 10 nautical miles or over 65,000 feet of calm water distance to accelerate a large ground effect vehicle. By comparison, commercial jet plane runways measure between 14,000 feet and 18,000 feet. Brazil’s coastal cities with such water runways include Belem next to Baia do Guajara, Sao Luis next to Baia do Sao Marcos, Salvador on Bay of All Saints, east of Curitiba is Paranagua on Baia do Paranagua, Joinville next to Baia do Babitonga and Florianopolis near Baia Norte and Baia Sul.
The Port of Santos is located to the east of the main city of Sao Paulo and offers up to 8,000 meters of diagonal distance across Baia do Santos to accelerate a medium size of ground effect vehicle. Passenger ground effect vehicles of 100 to 400 seats capacity and 200 km/hour cruise speed could operate on the Santos – Rio de Janeiro, Santos – Paranagua, Santos – Joinville and Santos – Florianopolis links. Faster vehicles of 300 km/hour cruising capability could provide service on the Rio de Janeiro – Paranagua, Rio de Janeiro – Joinville and Rio de Janeiro – Florianopolis links.
Several Brazilian coast cities have bridges of sufficient span between piers and sufficient air draft to allow fast moving ground effect vehicles to sail through below. At Rio de Janeiro, the main span on the Rio – Niteroi bridge is 300 meters (1,000 feet) with two side spans of 200 meters (600 feet) each and over 60 meters (190 feet) vertical clearance. Upon departure from Rio de Janeiro, the vehicle would accelerate under direction of port authority officials from Baia do Guanabara and under the Rio – Niteroi Bridge on either hulls or hydrofoils before transferring to wings, a total acceleration distance of 15 kilometers (eight nautical miles)
To the north of Rio, the Terceira Ponte (Bridge) crosses over Baia do Vitoria at the City of Vitoria and offers sufficient height and span with for a vehicle of 50 to 100 seats to pass below and accelerate for a total of up to eight kilometers to become airborne upon departure for Rio de Janeiro. North of Salvador at Aracaju, the Alves Bridge crosses over the Sergipe River with sufficient span spacing and vertical height for a 50-seat ground effect craft to accelerate over a distance of eight kilometers to become airborne on departure for Salvador.
Businesses in countries such as Russia, China, South Korea, Germany and Singapore have built, tested and demonstrated some of the capabilities of wing-in-ground effect transportation technology. Brazil represents a proving and testing ground for such technology. Being a member of the BRICS group of nations, Brazilian industries could seek to negotiate agreements to further develop ground effect technology of Russian and Chinese origins. German transportation manufacturing industries are well established in the Brazilian economy, providing opportunity for Brazilian industrialists to negotiate agreements to build and test larger versions of the German tandem wing ground effect technology.
For container transportation, there might be application for container carrier ground effect planes built to over 500 tons lift-off weight, with future possibilities of 2,000 tons and even as high as 5,000 tons. There will inevitably competition between the Russian layout of single lower wing with high-level tailing and the German tandem wing design of Dipl. Ing. Gunther Jorge. Domestic Brazilian market conditions could seek passenger versions of 100 to 400 seats to operate trips of two to five hours duration at speeds of 200 to 300 kms/hour. Domestic Brazilian and International freight transportation markets could seek vehicles of 2,000 to 5,000 tons lift-off weight.
Brazil’s transportation manufacturing sector employs large numbers of engineers and technologists who received their technical education at Brazilian and international universities and schools of engineering. Given the compatibility between the Spanish and Portuguese languages, the combination of technical universities located across Central and South America as well as Western Europe (Spain and Portugal) would be able to provide a sufficient number of engineers and technical personnel who could become members of the design teams that design, develop, test and refine large-scale versions of both passenger and freight wing-in-ground effect vehicles.
Russian and German companies seeking to further develop their ground effect technology might wish to consider possible future negotiations with Brazilian industrial partners. The geography of Brazil provides both a future domestic commercial market for wing-in-ground effect transportation technology as well as the testing ground to refine the technology and its performance. Domestic operation between distant Brazilian coastal cities provides the basis by which to develop trans-oceanic versions of mega-scale ground effect vehicles that could carry containers internationally over greatly extended distances. There will also be a future need to develop autonomous control for the mega-scale vehicles.
While Russian companies seek to develop large-scale 500-ton wing-in-ground effect vehicles capable of carrying containers over extended distances, Russia is without a domestic market to demonstrate and refine the technology. Brazil provides a domestic market for fast movement of containers and passengers between coastal cities. In the 100 to 400-seat size range, the German tandem wing design of vehicle might be more suitable for further development than the Russian design, with potential to add a high-level tail wing to an extended length tandem wing layout.
Brazil’s Ministry of Transportation would need to evaluate wing-in-ground effect technology for future application in Brazilian domestic coastal intercity service. The Ministry of Industry would need to evaluate future industrial opportunities related to designing and manufacturing mega-size ground effect vehicles in Brazilian factories, for domestic and international markets. Decisions from Brazilian government officials and from Brazilian industrialists would likely determine the future development of the technology.
The opinions expressed herein are the author's and not necessarily those of The Maritime Executive.