Juan Manuel Latapi Diaz
Director General
API Altamira
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View from the Top

Flagship Port Sustains Growth Through Crises

By Pedro Alcalá | Thu, 07/30/2020 - 11:24

Q: What factors are helping the port achieve its yearly growth rate of 7 percent?

A: The Port of Altamira is a young port, having started operations in 1985. It has operated as an API for the last 25 years. Our growth rate is directly related to the size of the port’s daily cargo responsibilities. We lead the country in petrochemical fluid traffic, are second in GOM automotive cargo traffic and fourth in total containerized cargo traffic. Thanks to our 19 docking positions, which we plan on increasing over the coming years by 36 percent to 26, and our 13 specialized maritime terminals, we can help move all kinds of cargo.

Our ongoing expansion projects are another important part of maintaining our growth strategy. Last year saw a number of significant developments. In September 2019, we began operating a dock and maritime terminal space belonging to Spanish contractor Dragados Offshore de México (DOMSA). The space includes a fabrication yard with a maximum displacement capacity of up to 21,000 tons. In September, it was the site of one of the largest platforms ever fabricated in Mexico, the CA-KU-A1, a sour gas compression platform for the KMZ asset. Overall, it represented an investment of over US$500 million. Another example of our recent projects includes the arrival on June 7 of the Frida 1 platform. This submersible platform is an enormous structure measuring 97x80m and weighing a total of 36,000 tons, with a drilling capacity 10,000 m and a draft of 18m. Frida 1 is scheduled to work for PEMEX and will consequently be receiving a large number of modifications, including electromechanical work, adaptations and additions to its structure and anchoring systems. This project is expected to generate 1,300 jobs in the state of Tamaulipas. In addition to all of this, we are constructing seven waterfronts that represent over US$566 million in private investments and over US$5 million in public investments.   

Q: What steps has the port has taken and continues to take to attract both private and public investment?

A: In a way, our most beneficial strategy is our geographical location, which is quite privileged and advantageous. I would also say that we tend to offer many benefits and amenities to our investors, making us a very competitive port. Available space is among our biggest advantages. The territorial extension of our port facilities, which totals 9,500ha, houses over 75 companies and the largest petrochemical cluster in the country. We have the capacity to provide a base to any company dedicated to any branch of industrial and logistical activities.

Our connectivity infrastructure has also turned us into a strategic port for Mexico’s northern and Bajio regions, which also attracts significant investments. This includes our rail connectivity services, managed by Ferromex for the northeastern routes and by Kansas City Southern for the Bajio routes. The port itself possesses over 72km of installed rail lines just to manage the operation and logistics of both of these rail service systems.

Q: How have you overcome unexpected obstacles to maintain uninterrupted port operations throughout the global crisis derived from COVID-19?

A: Altamira is among the ports that has not stopped throughout this crisis; in fact, Mexico is one of 33 countries that has declared itself committed to keeping its ports open through a network of international cooperation. We continue to follow internationally determined sanitary measures and regulations, along with all recommendations issued by the Mexican federal government. Social distancing and temperature measurements have become commonplace at our port. I would also highlight the extra efforts that our workforce has undertaken to meet all of these requirements.

Managing vessel and platform shift changes has required more communication to coordinate all of the port authorities who have a part on these activities, specially the international sanitary authorities, which have strengthened their protocols to ensure the safety and confidence on the operations. Also, the Mexican Port System has been acting as a humanitarian bridge platform, which has helped over 2,000 people return to their country of origin amid the logistical limitations, particularly for vessels stranded at sea, that have characterized the COVID-19 crisis.

Q: How is API Altamira participating in the government’s port development programs, such as the Intermode Portuary & Coastal Systems (SIPCOS) and the opening of marine highways or short-sea shipping routes?

A: The first marine highway was recently inaugurated, beginning in Tampico and following the GOM and Caribbean shorelines along ports such as Veracruz, and Progreso until it reaches its endpoint in the Guatemala port of Santo Tomás de Castilla. This program is having a considerable degree of success as more and more companies are incorporated into this route driven in part by the many ways in which it facilitates the customs process. Our proximity to Tampico does make this success relevant for us. SCT’s General Coordination of Ports & Merchant Marine has also assisted our incorporation into the SIPCOS system, which facilitates alliances between neighboring ports to help them play a more active role in the social development of their regions. In our case we are being linked with the port of Tampico as part of the northeastern SIPCO.

Q: What is the state of development for the port’s oil and gas infrastructure projects, particularly the development of its storage capacity?

A: On our new projects, we have the construction of two new terminals and the adaptation of 2 more existing for the management and storage of hydrocarbon fuels. Together, these terminals will total a storage capacity of 4.9MMb. Some of these developments are being understandably delayed given the pandemic, especially due to the legal circumstances that all these additional permitting requirements create. However, these projects will be concluded soon. All of this is taking place in addition to the port’s continuous operation of two more terminals specialized in oil and gas construction, one terminal specialized in LNG and five terminals specialized in the management and storage of petrochemical fluids. 

Q: If you had to choose one item from your Master Development Plan to prioritize, which one would it be and why?

A: This year, our Master Development Plan will have to be updated to some degree to account for present circumstances. I would say the most important items in our plan are those related to the port’s social role. This includes the construction of a protective barrier that shields the shoreline shared by the port and the neighboring urban populations from erosion and natural disasters. This represents an investment of around US$12.11 million. This category also includes the construction of two new electrical substations, one of which we are close to finishing and another that will enter into construction soon. Together, they represent an investment of around US$18 million. An additional US$12 million to US$13 million has been approved as the budget to fix an important vehicular overpass that falls under our jurisdiction, known as the Puente Roto. That work will begin this year as well. Finally, I would also prioritize the port’s dredging activities to attract larger and more diverse vessels. In that regard, we are planning to increase our total port draft to 15.24m at some point in the next two to three years. This will position us as one of the most important ports in the entire Latin America region.

 

API Altamira is the administrative body in control of the largest port in the state of Tamaulipas and has been operating since 1994. The port distributes the largest cargo of industrial and commercial goods in the northeastern part of Mexico. 

Pedro Alcalá Pedro Alcalá Journalist and Industry Analyst

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