Key Aspects of Mexico’s Future Port AdministrationBy Pedro Alcalá | Tue, 05/31/2022 - 15:48
Q: How would you describe the key points of the Directorate’s development?
A: A 2019 decree mandated that the segments of the Ministry of Infrastructure, Communications and Transportation (SICT) in charge of Federal Port Administrations be operated under the Ministry of the Navy (SEMAR). This entailed the administrative transfer of over 400 people, which was completed by June 2021. In a sense, we are a working group of civilians operating under SEMAR. Our office plays a significant role in the coordination of 14 Port Authorities (ASIPONAs), now operating under SEMAR’s roof. Therefore, there has not been a militarization of Mexico’s port infrastructure; a large segment of its originally civilian core administration was kept intact. Our office is a great example of that, as most of our teams retain their original composition. A large segment of ASIPONA and Federal API Navy captains are also not military personnel because their ranks are civilian in nature.
Q: How have investment plans been modified as part of this administrative transition?
A: We are implementing our port infrastructure investment and development plans, which contemplate the application of US$1.24 billion in resources throughout the next two years. Much of this money will come from a public trust that gathers resources from customs offices across the country, which the Mexican Government will invest in port infrastructure. These investments will be distributed to diverse projects. It represents the largest amount of investment directed toward port infrastructure since the creation of the APIs themselves.
Q: What are the implications of the change from APIs to ASIPONAs?
A: Legally, the ports are still APIs and the broad strokes of their governing and self-reliant funding structures remain the same. Over time, each API began to gain unique characteristics according to size, location and logistical relevance. The change in nomenclature to ASIPONAs aims to denote a process of integration and consolidation of all APIs under the umbrella of a broader national port infrastructure system, one that is more aligned with the intricate integration and streamlining inherent to a SEMAR administration. The transformation is furthermore meant to create the sense that some of the larger APIs are their own systems. This way, their future growth can be enabled in an agile way. It also becomes easier to receive further investment. However, the change has been mainly cosmetic, mostly concerned with the future of the port’s corporate image and market representation under SEMAR management.
Q: What are the most important ways in which the ports’ attraction and contracting of private capital will change?
A: The laws and legal regimes under which tendering and contracting processes will take place remain unchanged. These regimes dictate that concessions will continue to be a common part of our infrastructure investments. What has been changed by federal decree is that aspects of these processes have been modified to remove extraneous bureaucratic requirements and enable a faster completion of strategic contracting processes. This can include the nature of Environmental Impact Reports (MIAs), which still must be submitted through SEMARNAT but can be processed and approved in much shorter time frames.
Some of these changes create opportunities for SEMAR to complete contracting processes by awarding them directly, which is now within its legal right. Nevertheless, we have chosen to continue organizing open and transparent tendering processes despite their longer time frames. We want to make sure that we invite at least three different suppliers to compete for each contract so that we can establish fair competition. Some of these processes might not exactly amount to what was considered a fully open tendering process in the previous administration. In some cases, this unfortunately does not fit our delivery timelines. Still, they will be transparent in their requirements and expectations.
The Coordinating Directorate for the Evaluation of ASIPONA Management works within the General Directorate for the Promotion and Administration of Ports, as part of SEMAR’s General Coordination of Ports and Merchant Marine.