The Ferry Terminal

Transportation of passengers by ferry was the first system of mass urban mobility in Rio de Janeiro. It was introduced on a large scale in the 1830s, in the first half of the 19th century. There were over fifty trips a day between Rio and Niterói. The building that houses the ferry terminal was built at the beginning of the 20th century in response to increasing population density, due to the huge urban changes that were taking place in Rio de Janeiro. 

Imagem: site CCR Barcas.

Construction of the building which is located in the historic Praça XV square began during the mandate of the mayor, Pereira Passos, in 1904 and was inaugurated in 1912. The building´s eclectic architecture (which combines elements of various architectural styles) is an imposing example of one of the prevailing styles – at least for public buildings and mansions – of the time. Today the building houses not only the terminal but also the Operational Control Centre for CCR, the company that has been running the ferry transportation system since 2012, as well as the company´s administrative offices, shops and additional service areas.

However this terminal was not the first to operate passenger transport in the Guanabara Bay. In fact use of the bay started long before the Portuguese invasion. The tupinambás used canoes to move between the different shores of the bay, and from the 16th century onwards, the colonisers used the same indigenous canoes for years, until boats and feluccas – powered by enslaved rowers – began to navigate in these waters.

Vista tomada de Icaraí sobre a baía da Guanabara, com um navio entrando na barra – Hugo Calgan (atribuído), segunda metade séc. XIX

After an unsuccessful first attempt in 1817, steam navigation commenced in 1835. On 14 October of that year, the Navigation Society of Nictheroy started operating with three English ferries, named Praiagrandense, Niteroiense and Especuladora. They went from the Imperial Court, at that time, to the city of Niterói.

Praia de D. Manuel, c. 1823. Félix-Émile Taunay (atribuído). Este porto era um dos mais movimentados da cidade antes mesmo das embarcações a vapor. Acervo: Pinacoteca do estado de São Paulo.

The docking area was on the former Dom Manuel beach, situated to the right of present-day Praça XV square, which was, at the time, one of the principal ports of the city. In addition, there were other boarding and disembarking stops for the steamboats, such as the beaches of Caju, Botafogo and São Cristóvão. These ports, which had already been operating before the advent of the steamboats, lost importance and from the 1860s on, transportation to the southern and northern regions of the city were overland, with the new horse-drawn trams. As they gained popularity, the ferries became increasingly limited to the Rio-Niterói route.

A estação construída em 1862 – Marc Ferrez, c. 1900 – Instituto Moreira Salles

But even before the trams, other navigation companies had appeared, incorporating new ferries to their fleets. In 1862 a huge company was opened, Companhia Ferry, the result of a government concession to the businessman Clinton Van Tuyl. Companhia Ferry, which introduced the ferry system to the city, with greater capacity and faster vessels, had a negative impact on the services of the Niterói and Inhomirim Navigation Company (a merger of the Nictheroy Society and the Inhomirim Company, inaugurated in 1851), which eventually ceased its operations in 1865. 

Um ferry boat, já na nova estação da Praça XV – Alfredo Krausz, 1929 c. – Instituto Moreira Salles

At the beginning of the 20th century, much like Rio de Janeiro itself, the transportation system underwent a transformation. The architectural complex of the current ferry terminal was built in accordance with the trends of this period, featuring an iron structure and a vaulted dome, set upon an entrance adorned with nautical details.

Estação da Praça XV de Novembro, já revitalizada – Halley Pacheco de Oliveira, 2012. Wikimedia Commons

The structure was revitalized in 1998 and in 2012, CCR took over the administration of the ferry terminal and ferry transportation in the city. The Praça XV station currently receives thousands of passengers daily, destined for Niterói, Ilha do Governador and Paquetá Island.


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