Construction at Brazil’s Nuclear Sub Shipyard Slows

Imagery from June 2016 shows Brazil's Itagui shipyard and naval base under construction. (DigitalGlobe)

Imagery from June 2016 shows Brazil’s Itagui shipyard and naval base under construction. (DigitalGlobe)

Construction activity at Brazil’s Itaguaí nuclear submarine shipyard continues to show signs of slowing, a review of recent satellite imagery suggests. Initially, Brazil was to have its naval shipyard and co-located submarine base ready to start initial vessel construction by 2016. As we moved along the project timeline, the country’s economic troubles and scandals made that less of a possibility. Space snapshots show that very little activity has occurred over the last several months. The installation of the syncrolift (or ship elevator), a notable milestone, did however proceed in Q2 2016. Imagery shows the Norwegian acquired winches and ship platform modules were in place by the end of May. Beyond the syncrolift, other structures appear incomplete, land reclamation activity has not progressed and building material storage shows little change.

In February, Bloomberg reported that Brazil had cut funding for its nuclear submarine project by 50 percent. With Brazil’s shrinking economy—six consecutive declines—high inflation, and higher borrowing costs, not to mention the Zika virus epidemic, things look dim for the project. Without any direct maritime threats, modernizing the country’s naval arm, especially with further undersea platforms, has become less of a priority.