Best Standards Needed to Face New Era at Mexico’s PortsBy Pedro Alcalá | Thu, 03/25/2021 - 11:40
Q: What incentives attract Gulf Marine contractors to the Mexican market?
LS: Our interest in Mexico began with requests from our US clients, many of whom are operators of blocks obtained through the Energy Reform’s bidding rounds. We offer our services in Mexico with the same quality we offer them on the US side of the GOM. This leads to the company’s first plans for international expansion. Our COO, Clark Buffam, has shared these plans with me to mirror our US operations in Mexico, and that is what led to the establishment of our Mexico office. It is a decision led by our existing clients and their needs as the Mexican market became a larger part of their portfolios.
Once we established ourselves in Mexico through three companies, which were a customs agency, a technical maritime agency and the Mexico office of our US company, we realized that our concept was actually new and somewhat innovative. Five years ago, operations were still defined by PEMEX. All services were ultimately provided to PEMEX, and the strategies of all the service providers in the market were aligned to the needs and schemes of PEMEX. Most of the company’s personnel, myself included, had previous experience with international companies and with international maritime regulations, so there was a learning curve involved in adapting to this Mexican model. However, even then, we still perceived a considerable number of important opportunities in Mexico. When we began integrating the work of those three companies into one turnkey service for our clients around 2017, we realized that that the availability of that modality of business was quite limited in Mexico. Even foreign companies entering Mexico see us as a unique choice. We are also one of the few service providers that can provide clients with international compliance services, particularly anti-corruption measures and systems based on the US’ FCPA standards and the UK’s Bribery Act standards.
Q: How would you describe the process of aligning Mexican companies and institutions with these international anti-corruption standards?
LS: As a US company that also works in Europe, we are directly regulated by both FCPA and UK Bribery Act authorities, and as such, we are in constant communication with them and we also have an obligation to keep our TRACE certification as current as possible. All of our clients have access to these institutions through us and all the compliance and vetting resources and processes associated with them.
MH: Although I have worked in other industries connected to these authorities throughout my career as well as in the oil and gas industry for the last three years, it is true that adapting to working in Mexico has represented a significant amount of work for my office. When you look at the physical border between the US and Mexico, onshore and offshore, as well as the larger legal and regulatory space in which companies from both sides convene every day, you are looking at the most transited boundary of its kind. The gap that this border might represent has been somewhat closed over the years through certain homologation policies; nevertheless, it continues to exist. There are still some pretty vast differences between these two judiciary systems, which pose extensive challenges to us. Our compliance to norms and procedures is tightly adjusted to what the law demands in Mexico, and is also overseen by quality control and documentation management systems set forth by our US office, where I have been in charge of adapting to the Mexican context. I also have to follow up on any red flags that might appear throughout the compliance process. I am happy to say that my position does not give me the authority to bend any of these anti-corruption standards and principles to anybody’s benefit, and the solidity of that framework has greatly helped us navigate the Mexican environment, without the pitfalls that we see others falling into.
Q: How are you adapting to the consolidation of Mexico’s port infrastructure, particularly under the military’s supervision?
LS: From an operational perspective, there are advantages and disadvantages to this ongoing process. The degree and volume of attention and customer service has been reduced throughout port institutions, although to some extent that has been true globally due to COVID-19. At the end of 2020, an international advisory was published that called attention to the fact that a great deal of time was being lost in Mexico’s Pacific coast ports due to the ongoing building and implementation of new protocols. This is part of the learning curve that this government has had to assimilate, and that has been a disadvantage. Military administration is a lot more rigid and that has meant that certain processes have taken longer to implement and be absorbed due to the lack of flexibility implicit in that. However, an advantage of all of this has been the military’s great capacity for organization and logistical coordination.
Gulf Marine Contractors is an American offshore logistics company launched in 2017 with a focus on oil and gas GOM projects and expanding to Mexico.
CrossDock Supply is its subsidiary and partner, focused on supply and distribution of offshore equipment.