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IBGE maps transportation infrastructure in Brazil

November 25, 2014 09h00 AM | Last Updated: February 21, 2018 02h57 PM

The spatial distribution of the transportation logistics in the Brazilian territory shows a prevalence of the road mode, as well as its concentration in the Center-South Region, with a highlight to the state of São Paulo. Even with an imbalanced distribution over the Brazilian territory, the road network has capillarity and density quite above the other transportation modes. Only in the Amazon Region does road transportation lose, since, on account of the dense natural river network, the waterways are of a great importance. On the other hand, the distribution of railways and waterways is quite reduced and with a very little exploited potential, especially when it comes to a country as big as Brazil.

This is the picture portrayed in the wall map “Transportation Logistics in Brazil”, designed by IBGE, on a 1:5,000,000 (1 cm = 50 km) scale, unveiling the main structures of transportation in the country (highways, railways and waterways etc.), as well as other equipment associated to the logistics of cargo and passenger transportation in the country, such as warehouses, inland ports (sometimes called "dry ports"), border points, public aerodromes and river port terminals. The text of Transportation Logistics in Brazil is available at “Support Material” in this release. The map can be accessed on link

The wall map “Transportation Logistics in Brazil” has as it main data sources the Bank of Transportation Information and the Maps of the National Plan of Transportation Logistics (BIT-PNLT) – Ministry of Transportation, National Agency for Waterway Transportation (ANTAQ), National Civil Aviation Agency (ANAC), National Department of Transport Infrastructure (DNIT), INFRAERO and the Federal Revenue of Brazil. Cartographic basis from IBGE and BIT–PNLT were used.

The map aims at unveiling the main transportation structures in the country (highways, railways and waterways etc.), as well as other equipment associated with the logistics of cargo and passenger transportation in the country, as warehouses, inland ports (also "dry ports"), border points, public aerodromes and river terminals. In addition to the transportation infrastructure, the map portrays the density of the transportation network in Brazil, the main structuring roads of the territory and the cargo air flows in the country.

This work intends to contribute to the analysis and construction of a new geography of the country, based on the understanding of the cargo and passenger transportation logistics as structural aspects of the Brazilian urban network and of the interregional connections that link the national territory. In the last few years, with the economic growth and the rise of the domestic market, Brazil has had an increasing demand for improvements in the transportation systems so as to shrink logistics costs and make the internal production more competitive in the foreign market, as well more accessible to the domestic market. Therefore, the information update of the spatial distribution of the transportation logistics, at national level, is strategic information to the planning of the current and future territory of the country and of Brazilian society in the contemporary globalized world.

Some areas are a highlight in terms of high density of the transportation network, as, for example, Greater São Paulo and the Metropolitan Areas of Rio de Janeiro, Belo Horizonte and Porto Alegre. In terms of high accessibility, the highlights are the areas between Recife and João Pessoa, between Brasília and Goiânia, and the surroundings of Salvador and São Luís. Some "logistical emptiness" are also seen where the transportation network is rare, as in the Northeast countryside; the Pantanal region, except for the area of influence of the Paraguay River waterway; and inside the Amazon rainforest, except for the surroundings of the Solimões-Amazon and Madeira river waterways.

Highways boost in cargo transportation

The spatial distribution of the transportation logistics in the Brazilian territory has a prevalence of highways, especially concentrated in the Center-South Region, particularly in the state of São Paulo. In 2009, according to the National Confederation of Transport (CNT), 61.1% the overall cargo transportation in the country used the highway network; 21.0%, the railway system, 14% waterways and river or ocean port terminals and just 0.4%, air transportation.

Transportation infrastructure in São Paulo combines rail, road and waterway

São Paulo is the only state with a transportation infrastructure in which countryside cities are connected to the capital through a wide network, including double highways, railways and the Tietê waterway. Besides, the state has the largest airport (Guarulhos) and the port with the biggest cargo handling (Santos) of the country.

It is also worth mentioning the size of the single paved roads in the northwest of Paraná, Rio de Janeiro, south of Minas Gerais and the Federal District with its surroundings, as well as the coast of the Northeast Region, between Rio Grande do Norte and Salvador (BA). Such a distribution makes clear the economic importance of those regions, which require more accessibility and a better transportation infrastructure.

Railways mainly destined to transport commodities

Historically, the railway network has grown with the expansion of coffee growing up to the west of São Paulo in the 19th Century up to the beginning of the 20th Century. However, the main railway network of present days is used for the transportation of commodities, especially of iron ore and grains from the agriculture industry. Some of the most important railways are: North-South Railway, linking the region of Anápolis (GO) to the Itaqui Port, in São Luís (MA), transporting mainly soybeans and soy chaff; the Carajás Railroad, joining Carajás Hills to the Ponta da Madeira Terminal, in São Luís (MA), principally taking iron ore and manganese, and the Vitória-Minas Railroad, which basically carries iron ore to the Tubrão Port.

North Region depends more on waterways

Waterways, like railways, are predominantly used for the transportation of commodities, such as grains and ores, agricultural inputs, as well as petroleum and its derivatives, products of low value added and whose large scale production and transportation bring competition. The exception is the North Region, where transportation in small cargo and passenger ships is of a historical importance. Besides Solimões/Amazonas and Madeira waterways, this region depends a lot of other rivers for the interregional circulation. Other important waterways for the country are Tietê-Paraná and Paraguay, which play a fundamental role in the circulation of agricultural products in the state of São Paulo and in the Central-West Region.

Warehouses follow the concentration of agricultural production

The concentration of grain warehouses in the South and Central-West Regions and in the state of São Paulo reflects the agricultural production in those areas. It is noticed that in the South Region (except for the northwest of Paraná) and in the states of São Paulo and Minas Gerais, of a more consolidated production, the warehouses are characterized by a lower capacity, whereas in the Central-West Region, area of expansion of the modern agricultural border (where the main product is soybeans), they are bigger.

Ports export soybeans, petroleum, its derivatives and iron ore

Ports are mainly outflow tracks of commodities, mainly soybeans, iron ore, petroleum and its derivatives, which are among the main products of Brazilian exports. In relation to soybeans, the highlights are the ports of Itacoatiara (AM), Paranaguá (PR), Rio Grande (RS), Salvador (BA), Santarém (PA), São Francisco do Sul (SC) and Itaqui (MA).

Fuels and petroleum derivatives stand out in several terminals of the Northeast, especially Aratu (Candeias - BA), Itaqui (MA), Fortaleza (CE), Suape (Ipojuca – PE), Maceió (AL) and São Gonçalo do Amarante (Pecém - CE).

The ports with the greatest handling of iron ore were Ponta da Madeira, Vale S.A., in São Luís (MA) and Tubarão, in Vitória (ES). The former receives mainly the production of Serra de Carajás, in Pará; the second one is associated with the production of the state of Minas Gerais. 

The greatest quantity of cargo handled in the organized ports in the country occurs in the Port of Santos (SP), due to its strategic location. It comes in the third position in the ranking which encompasses the Organized Ports and Private Use Terminals (led by the Private Terminals of Ponta da Madeira and Tubarão) and handles, on a large scale, general cargo stocked and transported in containers.  Production flow with the highest added value going to other regions, as well as to exportation is found there. In addition, it is the closest landing location to the largest consumer center of the country, where the highlight is Greater São Paulo.

São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro concentrate air passengers

Cargo handling by air, due to high costs, is more used for products with a high value added or more perishable, demanding faster and safer transportation. In Brazil, this mode is used in few routs, with more than half of the traffic concentrated in just ten pair of connections between cities. The connection São Paulo-Manaus accounted for more than 20% of the total cargo transported in 2010.

São Paulo also held the greatest part of the air transportation of passengers, with 26.9 million passengers in domestic flights and 10.4 million in international ones in 2010. The second position stands with Rio de Janeiro, with 14.5 million and 3.1 million, respectively.

São Paulo holds almost half of dry ports in Brazil

The inland ports, also called “dry ports”, are settled near the areas of significant production and consumption to streamline export and import of goods. The state of São Paulo concentrates most of these structures, 28 of 62 all over the Brazil, in the cities of the Metropolitan Area and surroundings. In contrast, the Northeast and North Regions have two ports each, set in Recife and Salvador, Belém and Manaus. The South has 11 cities with dry ports and the Central-West Region has three. Despite Brazil's long border with Peru, Bolivia and Colombia, it is in the border with Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay – countries which, coupled with Brazil, integrate Mercosur since its foundation - that interactions are more dynamic; therefore, there is a greater number of IRS Offices and twin-cities, i. e., cross-border populations in which the flow of goods and persons can be higher or lower depending, among other factors, on the investments implemented by the neighboring states.