Imagem card

Suape – Port and Industrial Complex

It is worth noting that Suape was the name of a mooring on the side of the Cape, which was separated from the sea by a chain of sandstone reefs.

Suape – Port and Industrial Complex

Article available in: PT-BR ESP

Last update: 20/03/2020

By: Semira Adler Vainsencher - N/I

Before elaborating on the Suape Industrial-Port Complex, it is necessary to talk a little about the discovery of Cabo de Santo Agostinho, which is located in Pernambuco coast, and some other historical data concerning it. According to records dating back to the time of the discovery of America, on 26 January 1500, Vicente Yanez Pinzón, one of Christopher Columbus’ travelling companions, was the first European to arrive at the place, three months before Pedro Álvares Cabral himself. Pinzón called the new discovered land Santa Maria de la Consolatión, in homage to the holy protector of boats, which today is denominated Cabo de Santo Agostinho [Cape St Augustin]. It is a beautiful place, located 40km south of the city of Recife.

On 28 October 1580, the county of Nossa Senhora da Madre de Deus do Cabo de Santo Agostinho [Our Lady of the Mother of God of Cape St Augustine] was established, linking it to the Madre de Deus sugarcane mill, which was later called Engenho Velho. At the time, the settlement in the area consisted of some houses distant from each other.

It is worth noting that Suape was the name of a mooring on the side of the Cape, which was separated from the sea by a chain of sandstone reefs. At its northern end, where three important rivers flowed – the Massangana, Tatuoca and Ipojuca – a wall of approximately 800 metres allowed small boats access. When only the Indians lived there, the present Massangana River was called Suape – which in Tupi means ‘uncertain road’ – due to the very uncertain trajectory of this river. Since the beginning of civilisation, due to its high strategic value, the position of Cabo de Santo Agostinho and the configuration of the adjacent regions enabled the use of the Suape estuary as a port infrastructure base, as well as the dispute between the Dutch and Portuguese for its dominion in great battles. Since that time, therefore, that estuary has had economic and strategic functions.

In the 17th century, when the Dutch fortified a stronghold at Cabo de Santo Agostinho, Count Bagnoli built a fort nearby to protect the Santo Agostinho port. Later named Fort Nazaré, it was a useless building because it could defend neither the place nor the bar. Later, its name was changed from Fort Nazaré to Fort Pontal de Nazaré. It was from this port that the people of Pernambuco exported their products and received provisions and aid from Europe and the other captaincies, as well as African slaves. In the locality, it is still possible to appreciate the ruins of the Fort.

In 1635, the area capitulated: the Portuguese lost the dominion of the port of Santo Agostinho and left the Captaincy’s territory. Only in 1646 did the port resume its functions of supporting the Pernambuco Insurrection. Through it passed a caravel (filled with arms, ammunition and supplies) and four heavy English ships that supplied the restorers. Among other facts, the dispute also ended when Vidal de Negreiros ordered to obstruct the port bar with rocks. After that, and until the middle of the 19th century, only small boats and rafts could navigate there.

Another area, in turn, was formed in the Cabo de Santo Agostinho, from the substitution of the Atlantic Forest for sugarcane, making the region’s economic activity predominate in the sugar industry. Through this activity began the true colonisation of these lands, as well as the implantation of mills. The village of Cabo de Santo Agostinho was created by virtue of a charter on 27 July 1811, and the Royal Provision of 15 February 1812. Only from 9 July 1877 did the city take the name of Cabo de Santo Agostinho.

For a long time, and for most of the 20th century, the industrial district of Pernambuco was concentrated in the municipality of Cabo, in the Metropolitan Area of Recife, because the state capital did not have adequate space for this purpose. The growth of urban areas, however, led to a greater overload in Port Recife, which contributed to the consideration of port alternatives to the south on the coast. The Cabo de Santo Agostinho concave, and an area around it, were chosen as the best and closest option.

In 1973-1975, the Government of Pernambuco conceived a Master Plan and began the struggle for the establishment of an Industrial Port Complex in Cabo de Santo Agostinho, since the State’s own geographical position in the centre of the Northeast Region would facilitate the implementation of Port Suape. Three fundamental elements were taken into account: 1. a little more than 1km from the reef cordon along the coastline, the place had water depths of 17 metres; 2. there was a natural breakwater formed by the reef chain; and, 3. there were extensive areas reserved for the establishment of a large industrial park.

Besides all this, Suape was only eight hours away from the international routes of the great transporters of the United States and Europe. Thus, through Law no. 7.763/78 on 7 November 1978, the company Suape Complexo Industrial Portuário [Suape Industrial Port Complex] was created. The area for the Complex covered the coastal strip between the Jaboatão River and the beach of Porto de Galinhas, comprising part of the municipalities of Cabo and Ipojuca.

In order for the mega project to be completed, some 13,500 hectares of land were expropriated. The operations of Port Suape began through the Liquid Bulk Pier, which was leased to Petrobras in April 1984, when the first shipment of alcohol fuel was made. That same year, a stone breakwater was built, with the purpose of protecting the internal entrance of the port. With the basin formed after the breakwater, the first port facilities were implemented. These consisted of two ship docking facilities – the so-called Liquid Bulk Pier (PGL) and the Multiple Uses Quay (CMU). Three years later, in 1987, the Port Recife’s Petroleum Derivatives Tanks Station was transferred to Suape; and, in 1991, the Multiple Uses Quay (CMU), which moves containers, came into operation.

The regularisation of Port Suape’s legal and institutional situation together with the Federal Government was effected through the Department of Waterway Transport of the National Secretariat of Transport in 1992. This allowed the Government of Pernambuco to explore these port services commercially.

In 1999, construction of the first stage of the so-called internal port took place – 935 metres of quays and depths of up to 15.5 metres. Two years later, the second stage of construction began, through the dredging of more than 1.3 million m3. Then the navigation channel was extended by another 450 metres, which made it possible to build Quay 4. In 2002, to meet the new demands, adding new lanes to the port’s avenue (at 4.4km long) was undertaken, and the construction of Port Suape’s Operations Centre 1st Building. The following year, the port received a certificate of compliance with the law against bioterrorism from the US Government’s Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

In 2004, a thermoforming plastic packaging factory called EMPLAL was inaugurated. Also, the Suape Port Industrial Complex Training Centre was opened, an enterprise aimed at assisting the employees of the companies located in the port and the communities in its vicinity. In 2005, an agreement was signed between Petrobrás and Petróleos da Venezuela S.A. in order to install an oil refinery in 2007, capable of processing 200,000 barrels of oil per day, to generate approximately 10,000 jobs during its construction, and when completed, to house 1,500 workers.

Today Suape represents the most complete industrial centre in Northeast Brazil, receiving, distributing and exporting raw materials, basic goods and final products, besides being included among the country’s 11 priority ports, and the main alternative for the transport of cargoes to and from the entire Atlantic coast of South America, with low freight costs. In addition to the presence of more than seventy companies (installed or under construction), it also has an external port, an internal port, some bulk liquid terminals, a multipurpose dock, and a container terminal. At 16.5 metres deep, the port serves large vessels, handling more than 5 million tonnes of cargo annually, such as bulk liquids (petroleum, alcohol, chemicals, vegetable oils and others) and containers. The port has effective road, electricity, water supply and telecommunications systems, and also carries out the transhipment operations – which consist of the transfer of cargo from large ships to port facilities and its subsequent transfer to smaller vessels.

The Suape Industrial-Port Complex has more than 6,000 hectares under environmental protection, and among companies already installed or in the process of being installed are Aluminic Industrial S/A, Bonesa Borracha S/A, Cimec-Cia. Industrial and Mercantil de Cimentos, Concreto Redimix do NE S/A, Copagás Distribuidora de Gás Ltda., Esso Brasileira de Petróleo S/A, Granex – Granitos de Exp. Do NE Ltda., The NE Plastic Box Industry Ltda., Pedra Cerâmica Santo Antônio S/A, Petrobrás Distribuidora S/A, Refresco Guararapes Ltda. (Coca-Cola), Shell do Brasil S/A, Termo Fértil S/A, Cometa Carrier and Work Mariner Ltda.

Lastly, it should be noted that the Suape Port, one of the most important in the world, operates vessels every day of the year, regardless of tide schedules, and has a monitoring system for guiding ships by laser, which enables more secure control for both people and shipments.

Recife, 31 January 2006.
Translated by Peter Leamy, December 2016

sources consulted

ANDRADE, Gilberto Osório de; LINS, Rachel Caldas. Pirapama: um estudo geográfico e histórico. Recife: Editora Massanganam 1984.

BRAGA, João. Guia turístico, histórico e cultural. Recife: Assembléia Legislativa do Estado de Pernambuco, 2000.

CAVALCANTI, Carlos Bezerra. O Recife e seus bairros. Recife: Câmara Municipal do Recife, 1998.

FORMAÇÃO histórica e geográfica do cabo. Cabo: Departamento de Estudos Sociais, Secretaria de Educação, Prefeitura Municipal do Cabo, 1988.

FRANCA, Rubem. Monumentos do Recife. Recife: Secretaria de Educação e Cultura, 1977.

JORGE, José . Suape, a retomada do desenvolvimento. Brasília: Senado Federal, 2000.

KATER, Maria das Graças L.; BARROS, Maria de Lourdes Osório de. O processo de transferência dos agricultores situados na área de Suape, pertencentes à Cooperativa de Tiriri. In: ENCONTRO NACIONAL DE GEOGRAFIA AGRÁRIA, 6, 1985, Garanhuns, PE. Anais.  Recife: Fundaj, Ed. Massangana, 1985.

LINS, Rachel Caldas. O cabo e as revoluções pernambucanas. Ciência e Trópico Recife, v. 9, n. 1, p. 67-95, jan./jun. 1981.

MOTTA, Roberto. O povoado de Suape: economia, sociedade e atitudes. Recife, Revista Pernambucana de Desenvolvimento, v. 6, n. 2, p. 209-247, jul./dez. 1979.

O Complexo de Suape. Rio de Janeiro, PlanejamentoP&Ddesenvolvimento, na. 5, n. 56, jan. 1978.

SUAPE: Complexo Industrial Portuário. Disponível em:<>. Acesso em: 12 jan. 2006.

SUAPE, ecologia e cultura. Recife: Instituto de Desenvolvimento de Pernambuco/Secretaria de Planejamento/Governo do Estado de Pernambuco, 1978.

how to quote this text

Source: VAINSENCHER, Semira Adler. Suape - Porto e Complexo Industrial. Pesquisa Escolar Online, Fundação Joaquim Nabuco, Recife. Disponível em: <>. Acesso em: dia  mês ano. Ex: 6 ago. 2009