A Century of Mexican Maritime ExperienceWed, 01/18/2017 - 15:27
As Mexico opens its waters to foreign oil operators for the first time, local shipping agencies are set to become important points of reference for naval companies in need of Mexicospecific knowledge and experience, says Daniel Ruiz, CEO of Coatzacoalcos, Veracruz-based Tomas Ruiz, a family-owned firm with close to a century of representing the owners of vessels in Mexican waters.
Shipping agents, Ruiz says, are primarily problem solvers whose services are most required when an issue arises. “It is easy to be an agent when everything is going well but when something goes wrong, things change,” he adds. Expertise is the main factor for companies when deciding on which shipping agent to rely on. Promptness is another key because clients can be assured that Tomas Ruiz will be on hand 24 hours a day. In urgent situations, it is the vessel owner who needs to be kept up to date. “As agents, we must be constantly available for our clients, even if they call at two o’clock in the morning.”
Founded in 1909 in Coatzacoalcos, the company is managed by third and fourth generation descendants of its original founders. Ruiz highlights values that reflect the firm’s familial roots, defining their most important qualities as “expertise, honesty and communication.” The firm operates across four Mexican ports: Coatzacoalcos, Dos Bocas in Tabasco and Cayo Arcas in Campeche, all three in the Gulf of Mexico, as well as Salina Cruz in Oaxaca’s Mexican Pacific Coast.
Cayo Arcas and Dos Bocas are Mexico’s main oil exporting ports, handling most of the country’s close to 1.2 million b/d of crude sales to the international market in 2016.
In a field crowded with competitors both local and foreign, Ruíz references the advantages of choosing a Mexican agent over an international one. Regulations and practices can vary across Mexican ports, so it is vital to enlist the assistance of local agents who are familiar and can deal with the particularities and requirements of the local authorities. Another important factor to take into account are the connections a shipping agent has with others across the country. Tomas Ruiz has a comparative advantage in this area because as well as representing vessel owners, the company uses its close links to maritime authorities nationwide to connect clients with the people who can help them, Ruíz says.
Links with other companies is something Tomas Ruiz’s CEO hopes to expand in the coming years. “We are definitely open to partnerships with international companies,” he says, pointing to a past project with Kuehne + Nagel as evidence of the firm’s determination to get involved in private initiatives.
At the moment, the agency is working with CFE on a pipeline that will run from Brownsville in southern Texas to Tuxpan in Veracruz. Ruiz describes his agents’ detailed industry knowledge as the reason for their involvement with CFE, which asked them to complete 60 pages of questions about the project.
Ruiz also cites gasoline storage as a potential future area of opportunity due to new entrants such as OXXO. “Although PEMEX will continue importing gasoline due to the cost of revamping refineries, in five to 10 years, this new competition will open up a need for storage space due to the country’s lack of infrastructure,” he says. This, he says, may even present an opportunity for PEMEX to rent out its tankers.
Tomas Ruiz is getting more involved in similar ventures, selling its industry know-how rather than solely providing shipping services. “Since the reduction in the number of vessels arriving here, we have to adapt to new trends and sell our expertise instead,” Ruiz says. The company is showing its adaptability by positioning itself as an obvious choice for incoming private companies looking for dependable and expert shipping agents.