With an installed capacity of around 15 million tons, in the port of Mazatlán, there are no projects in the short term that allow it to grow its infrastructure to provide a service that competes with its counterparts in Manzanillo and Lázaro Cárdenas.
Given this scenario, specialists note that investors would hardly dare to risk their capital if there are no signs of a recovery.
Being the gateway to the Northern Economic Corridor, it has a privileged geographical position that is not being taken advantage of, since its potential is reduced to the movement of loose cargo in a greater proportion than that of containers, which is better valued in the shipping market.
Mazatlán remains in the shadow of the transshipments that Manzanillo and Lázaro Cárdenas give it, since, not coping with its port flow of containers, they leave the loose cargo in charge of this port.
The Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), which annually publishes the ranking of the world’s ports with the highest cargo movement, in 2020 reported a decrease attributed to the pandemic.
In Mexico, there are Manzanillo (which fell from position 3 to 5), Lázaro Cárdenas (down from 13 to 15), Veracruz (up from 17 to 16) and Altamira (from 20 to 19).
Ensenada, (up from 36 to 33), Progreso (maintained 54th place), Puerto Chiapas (up from 75 to 67), and Mazatlán (up from 76 to 68). Panama’s Caribbean coast occupied the first position.
Recently created, the Mazatlán AC Port Community headed by Emilio Hernández Kelly, reports that as of December 2021, 42,100 containers were mobilized in closed cargo, which is a slight growth, “almost zero, compared to 2020.”
“In cruise passengers, there was also zero growth, in fact, a slight decrease of 98 thousand cruise passengers. In tonnage, it is for Mazatlan the key indicator for the type of port we are: we closed with 2.35 million tons”, he informed.
Hernández Kelly explained that the tonnage has three main sources: oil and derivatives that arrive in tankers at the Pemex terminal, cargo from ferries (two companies provide service), and containers and general cargo, which is in the latter in which it has found its niche with the movement of wood, steel, scrap metal, salt, and fish.
“It is cargo that is not containerized and that generally other ports that are more containerized such as Manzanillo or Lázaro Cárdenas, these cargoes cannot be easily handled and due to the saturation that has occurred in those ports, Mazatlán has become a good alternative,” he said.
The merchandise comes mainly from Asia and South America, and it touches Manzanillo and from there it is transferred to the feeder vessels that serve the port of Mazatlán, “there have also been cases that vessels arrive in Manzanillo and do not unload, they are redirected to Mazatlán.”
With all this, the figures for port movement in 2021 show that the port is underutilized.
“Yes, there is a capacity that can be used (…) the issue here is the demand for services; Let’s remember that Mazatlan has an area of influence to provide port services, which markets we serve: Sinaloa for containers, foreign trade, cargo in general because we don’t have the infrastructure, we serve the West, the Bajío, and to a lesser extent, but the Mazatlán region is not densely populated, we have a population of about 600,000 people, and we are not close to a production center either,” he explained.
There are things that can be done in the port to make it more attractive to users, he considered, such as the plans of the Mazatlan National Port System Administration (Asipona, formerly API), to build a cruise terminal, which will benefit the cargo because the current pier 6 where they dock is the same one where ships with containers maneuver, so, as there is more space, it will not prevent it from serving cargo ships.
There are currently seven docks, and with the federal project, there would be eight.
Alfredo Ruelas Solís, president of the (Council for the Economic Development of Sinaloa) Codesin Southern Zone, explained that Manzanillo is the market leader in terms of container handling in the Mexican Pacific, they move approximately one million to one and a half million containers annually. , and Lázaro Cárdenas is nearby.
“Before the pandemic, we were approximately 50,000 containers a year, so you can see the proportion,” he explained.
In the official numbers that it publishes, it is observed that “we did not grow in 2021, we had a small decrease compared to 2020. Our goal is to grow in the number of containers, however, we reached around 45 thousand containers in 2021, with estimated figures, which makes us see that we are very far from reaching ports that have a very agile growth, very efficient”.
The causes, it is difficult to judge them, he added, but it has been seen that Mazatlan has had a lot of haggling over the budget in the creation of infrastructure and it is not from this federal administration, “it has been a constant in the last administrations, and they have given with drops the resources that have arrived; We have been promised, everyone knows, dredging, including lately the tourist terminal, however now it is handled, unfortunately, and due to the situation that arises with the pandemic, the Master Plan of the Port has been modified, which It means that we will surely continue waiting for that investment to arrive… and Mazatlán as a multipurpose port suffers from the lack of that infrastructure.”
Fitting in with the northern economic corridor, the challenge
In the logistics circle of the arrival of shipments and their distribution, an important part is having storage spaces that allow the arrival point to be cleared to speed up the unloading of more merchandise.
—In this part of the process, then, would private investment be necessary?
—The request is that infrastructure is generated in order to grow, normally public infrastructure is what comes to make the economy grow.
—In other words, it would be the spearhead for the infrastructure to be built with federal investment so that the private initiative could invest?
-Exactly. And I am not just referring to the industrial parks, there are many investments around the activity; transportation companies, specialized in logistics, strategic warehouse centers, but obviously, for that step to be taken, the private investor has to do what he has done in other places like Manzanillo, invest, and then generate national and international private investments that already in other places they have built first-generation containerized terminals, and we don’t have that here in Mazatlan.
– Nuevo León and Coahuila are investing in industrial parks, Durango in a customs park, that is, they do bring that vision.
—Yes, and here the Aerospace Park is also being discussed, I know of another company, with a logistics center where they will build a controlled strategic facility, but we need to fit both the USMCA corridor, the entire corridor to the border with Texas, and fit the port…what we have as a port at the moment, our multipurpose port. Does it have potential, does it have capacity? Yes, it does.
—It means that it has to give much more than what it is giving right now, it is being underutilized
-I have always said that (…) I am sure that with good promotion, we as Codesin have been seeing with the federal government that more is invested (…) at a given moment help us with studies, the logistical capacities that the port has and which is its potential market in this corridor because I am sure that much of the market that we potentially have does not go through Mazatlán due to lack of infrastructure, it goes through Manzanillo and Lázaro Cárdenas, and that is truly sad, having a port like the one we have, communicated by a road that was built for the port: the port of Mazatlan is underutilized.
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