New Container Port Planned for Mexico to Take Overflow from L.A.

Plans for a $1bn container port to be built at Punta Colonet on Mexico's west coast have been unveiled by Marine Terminals Corp, a California holding company owned by Evergreen, Yang Ming, Hanjin and China Shipping.

The aim is to create an alternative to the congested southern California ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.

Walter Romanowski, Marine Terminals' executive vice-president for container operations, said the firm wanted to build a complex of berths, warehouses and cranes at Punta Colonet to handle some 1m teu by 2012 - about one-seventh of LA's current volume.

Marine Terminals also hopes to construct a new rail line to carry containers from the proposed Mexican port to California's Imperial Valley.

Container traffic from China is growing at 15% per year with Los Angeles and Long Beach becoming the main point of entry into the US, with some 11.3m teu arriving last year.

Congestion has mounted at the ports due to a variety of problems, not least the fact that the ports' gates are open only eight hours per day, five days per week due to the financial constraints of manning them around the clock, seven days a week.

Problems at Los Angeles and Long Beach were compounded by the lack of rail and trucking facilities, as well as insufficient gangs of longshoremen to unload the containers from the ships and move them through the terminals.

With the approach of peak season, as many as 100 containerships were forced to anchor outside, while scores of others were diverted to other ports, including Oakland, Seattle and Tacoma to the north, as well as Mexico's Manzanillo to the south.

With January container traffic in Long Beach already up 35% over last year, the shippers fear another season of blockages could eventually become an annual problem.

As a result, they are looking for alternative ports and transport corridors.

One recently establishedalternative is a new US-Asia corridor made possible by rail and trade connections established between Kansas City, Missouri, and Mexico's West Coast ports of Manzanillo and Lazaro Cardenas.

That trade corridor acquired substance earlier this month when the Kansas City Southern Railroad acquired Mexico's busiest rail carrier, Transportacion Ferroviaria Mexicana (TFM), which handles 60% of all rail traffic flowing across the US-Mexican border.

The KCS acquisition of TFM was considerably sweetened by recent legislation of the Mexican government which allows free transit of containers from Pacific Rim nations to the US.