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American Shipper

Mexico downplays legal issues for new port

Mexico downplays legal issues for new port

The Mexican government is downplaying legal wrangling that has held up private investment in a new container port 150 miles south of San Diego at Baja California’s Punta Colonet.

   Manuel Rodr'guez Arregui, the Mexican sub-secretary of transportation overseeing the project, told the San Diego Union-Tribune Wednesday that the dispute, over sea floor mineral rights off Punta Colonet, would not last. 'We’re going to resolve it. Believe me, this won’t stand in the way for long.'

   The project has received various levels of interest from terminal operators, maritime companies and rail firms around the world, but the mineral rights dispute has derailed bidding efforts. Arregui said that “two serious studies” have indicated the concentration of minerals is not large enough to mine.

   Differing versions of the port plan have ranged in cost from $1 billion to $9 billion, and varied in scale from smaller than the Port of San Diego to as large as the Port of Los Angeles and Port of Long Beach combined. The plan calls for the Mexican government to bid out the three parts of the project — port operations, port administration and a rail line to the U.S. border — to private companies.

   Earlier this week, Union Pacific told residents in southeastern California that the railroad was buying up property to construct a 30-mile stretch of rail near the border that would tie into the Mexican rail line from Punta Colonet.

   The Mexican government is hoping to grow the port to handle 6 million to 8 million TEUs by 2025 and ship it directly to the Midwest and eastern United States, effectively removing all of the commerce from West Coast ports. With such numbers being thrown about, the U.S. shipping industry has taken notice and raised concerns about a major shift of cargo south of the U.S./Mexican border.

   Arregui feels their concerns are unfounded. 'This is a very important project. It’s a project that should be taken in the interest of both nations. Even though it's on Mexican soil, the United States should be interested in this project,' he said. 'The growth rate of trade with Asia requires more infrastructure. It’s not in both countries’ best interest to have a bottleneck.'

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