Major New Seaport Planned for Baja California

Desert scrub, rows of broccoli and a few scattered Airstream trailers are about all that dot the seaside landscape at Punta Colonet. But Mexican officials hope an ambitious development plan will transform the Baja California cove into a seaport as busy as that in Los Angeles.

The site, 120 miles south of Tijuana, is where the Mexican government and major shipping and freight concerns envision a massive ocean-freight container port to compete with those north of the border. Next year, government officials hope to begin receiving construction bids from shipping companies to start work on the harbor, berths and terminals.

Mexican officials hope the port will open in 2012 and will include about 20 slips for container cargo ships, Mexican port and merchant marine, coordinator C'sar Reyes Roel said.

He says the plan calls for the port to ultimately receive as much cargo as the Los Angeles port does now and would result in a new Baja city linked to the United States by a 180-mile railroad.

The driving force behind the proposal is the "surprising and consistent" growth in Asian maritime cargo to North America, Roel said. Moving forward will depend on receiving private capital from the shipping and terminal companies, he added.

Los Angeles and Long Beach are the U.S. gateways for Asian goods, and some officials at those ports are skeptical that Punta Colonet could handle 7 million cargo containers a year, as does the Port of Los Angeles, the largest U.S. seaport. "We think it's ambitious," Port of Los Angeles spokesman Arley Baker said.