Located on Mexico’s western coast, Manzanillo has long served as a major shipping port for the country. Today, more than ever before, international companies choose Manzanillo for its location and ample service offerings. “We’re the only port in Mexico that receives everything, from containers to cruise ships,” says Pamela de la Vega Tirado, marketing manager at Administración Portuario Integral (API) de Manzanillo, the company that oversees administrative duties at the port. “We’re the biggest and best equipped port in the country.”
The Port of Manzanillo currently has 14 terminals and installations to accommodate all types of cargo. It regularly moves livestock, autos, grains, and minerals through its facilities, along with other goods. International companies, including those from North America and Asia, take advantage of the port’s offerings and high international standards.
For the past nine years, the Port of Manzanillo has been the leading port in Mexico for the amount of container cargo it handles each year. In 2010, the port increased its movement of containerized cargo by 35.9 percent. This year the United Nations listed Manzanillo as number seven among the top 10 ports ranked according to the movement of containerized port in Latin America and the Caribbean.
During the past several years, the volume of goods passing through Manzanillo has increased substantially. In 2010, the port handled 1.5 TEUs. Company officials expect that number to increase to 1.8 million TEUs during 2011.
“Puerto Manzanillo is the main point of entry for Asian commerce at this moment,” notes Tirado. “We’ve received not only more cargo but also new ships and new lines,” she adds. “In 2011, we’ve already received four new shipping lines, and we also have bigger ships coming in with higher capacity levels.”
During most of the 20th century, the Mexican federal government controlled all of the country’s ports, including Manzanillo. That changed in the 1990s, when Mexico’s government established a new system that allowed private companies to participate in port operations.
In 1994, the government established 21 private port administrators. While the government retained ownership of the ports, it conceded them out to private companies. Today these companies hold the concessions for years and are able to act as landlords.
This shift from government-run to being a partnership between the government and private investors brought about changes in Manzanillo – changes for the better. Starting in the 1990s, the port began investing in infrastructure. During 1994, the port handled slightly more than seven tons of cargo. By 2006, that number had grown to 20 million tons.
A quick overview of the Manzanillo reflects the amount of investment, growth, and development the port has experienced during the past 16 years. The Port of Manzanillo has an area of 437 hectares. This space includes a water, docking, and storage area. The port has 17 docking positions, storage facilities that cover 14 hectares, 13.5 kilometers of railway lines, and 5.4 kilometers of roadways.
Through its port, Manzanillo serves 15 of Mexico’s 31 states, representing 64 percent of the country’s GDP. Its location on Mexico’s west coast makes it an ideal point of entry for countries located on the Pacific Rim, as well as a strategic point of transfer for countries in Central and South America. The port has 26 different shipping lines that regularly make use of its services and connections to 74 destinations in the world.
Today the port has three multipurpose facilities that are used for handling general and containerized cargo. It also has a specialized terminal for containers (TEC) with an operating capacity of up to three ships at a time, and productivity rates of up to 120 boxes per ship hour.
The port of Manzanillo has freezer chambers in the fishing terminal with a storage capacity of up to 3,500 tons of sea products. It also has a grain installation with three storage silos that can hold 7,000 tons each. The port has a facility for handling gypsum, with a storage capacity of 60,000 tons and ship loading capacity of 2,000 tons per hour.
Puerto Manzanillo has an installation for the specialized handling of liquid bulk products such as palm oil and fish oil. This unit has a storage capacity of 13,900 cubic meters. A refrigerated warehouse set up for perishable items can hold up to 3,000 tons. A bulk cement warehouse has the capacity to store up to 25,000 tons and is operated by Cementos Apasco, a Mexican cement company.
Two warehouses at the port are operated by the CEMEX, one of the world’s largest cement producers: one for handling 50,000 tons of clinker and the second for 16,000 tons of bulk cement.
The Port of Manzanillo holds various international certificates, thereby offering clients a high standard of quality in all of its operations. It currently has ISO 9001:2008 certification, ISO 14001: 2004, certification, and ISPS (International Ship and Port Facility Security) certification. The Port of Manzanillo has been awarded a Clean Industry certificate by the Mexican government for its environmental concerns.
One of the current projects underway at the Port of Manzanillo involves transitioning from a paper-based system to an online setup. Known as puerto sin papeles (port without papers), the goal of the new system will be to reduce the amount of paperwork needed to process incoming and outgoing transactions. “This information platform is designed to improve the exchange of information between the port and the various players it interacts with,” notes Tirado. “We want to reduce the number of steps involved in the process, and also create a systemized method that increases efficiency at the port.”
Using an online system for transactions is currently not a common strategy among other ports in the region. But the port of Manzanillo plans to pioneer the new technology soon. “With this web platform, we’ll be the only port in Mexico and Latin America that offers this type of service,” explains Tirado. “This puts us at the forefront in terms of efficiency and quality.”
In addition to the online plans, the port of Manzanillo has expanded in terms of surface area and storage capacity in recent years. In 2008, the port replaced the surfaces of its three most important terminals. It also renovated several areas of operations and storage facilities with the intention of offering better service to the port’s users.
The port is currently working on constructing an additional terminal that will be designated for containers. The new terminal will cover an area of 74 hectares. The construction phase of this project has begun and company officials estimate that the new terminal will become fully functional by November 2012.
The port of Manzanillo is also developing a project for another multi-purpose terminal. This terminal is projected to cover approximately 11 hectares. According to Tirado, a market study is currently underway; upon completion, it will help determine the new terminal’s main function.
To connect the newly constructed infrastructure, plans are in place to create a road system to connect the new terminals with the needed storage facilities and other structures. The new highways should be completed by July 2012.
These projects demonstrate the port’s plans to continue growing and expanding in the years to come. “We’re working to generate more efficient methods and increase productivity rates for clients,” says Tirado. “This means not only building up the infrastructure but also improving current processes.” Through these efforts, the port is destined to remain Mexico’s largest, and one of Latin America’s most important, sea ports.