(Adds industry comment, information on burning tanks, Santos background)
RIO DE JANEIRO, April 6 (Reuters) - Truck access to the Port of Santos, Brazil’s largest, was further restricted early on Monday as a result of a fire that has raged for five days in a fuel depot at the port, which serves Sao Paulo, South America’s most populous city.
While the restrictions are slowing new deliveries, they are not affecting export volumes of soybeans and other grains, industry representatives said. High-volume Santos handles more than a third of Brazil’s annual soybean exports and more than half of corn exports.
“Anything that happens at Santos is cause for worry, but the fire has not altered anything with regard to the April export outlook. Warehouses are full and ships keep loading,” said Sergio Mendes, executive director of the National Cereals Exporters’ Association, Anec.
Trucks heading to the “right”, or City of Santos, side of the port on the Anchieta Highway have been prevented from descending the Serra do Mar mountains starting at midnight on Monday, EcoRodovias, the company that runs the Anchieta portion of the highway said on its website.
Trucks heading to Guaruja, a port city on the “left” side of the channel that provides access to the port, are being allowed to proceed, Sao Paulo’s transport regulator said in a statement.
Highway regulator Artesp said it expected transportation in the port area to be back to normal on Tuesday.
The fire has restricted port access since late last week. In recent years Brazil has been challenging the United States for the title of world’s largest soybean exporter.
The Serra do Mar is a steep range of mountains that separate Santos, on the coastal lowlands, from Sao Paulo, the capital of Brazil’s industrial heartland, about 50 kilometers (30 miles) away on a high, interior plain.
The trucks are being held back where vehicles turn off the Imigrantes highway for the Anchieta, Sao Paulo’s transportation regulator said. The move has caused traffic jams on the Anchieta/Imigrantes system.
The fire at a liquid bulk storage facility and transport terminal broke out on Thursday.
Six fuel tanks run by Ultracargo, owned by Brazil’s Grupo Ultra, have been damaged in the blaze. Two of them were still burning late on Sunday, Ultracargo said.
The damaged tanks held ethanol and gasoline and had storage capacity of 34,000 cubic meters (214,000 barrels). Not all were full at the time of the fire, Grupo Ultra said. (Reporting by Jeb Blount and Roberto Samora; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Gunna Dickson)