Gilberto Antonio Ríos Ruiz
Director General
Port of Coatzacoalcos
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Puerto de Coatzacoalcos: Hub for the Deepwater Industry

Wed, 01/25/2012 - 14:18

A 300km railroad track runs across the south of Mexico connecting the Atlantic with the Pacific, all the way from the Port of Salina Cruz in Oaxaca to the Port of Coatzacoalcos in Veracruz. The latter port stands at the mouth of the Coatzacoalcos River, where it flows into the Gulf of Mexico, surrounded by four of Pemex’s petrochemical plants: Pajaritos, Cangrejos, Morelos and Cosoleacaque. Recently, Pemex reported a deepwater natural gas deposit— discovered with the Piklis-1 exploration well—150km from the Port of Coatzacoalcos. Thanks to the earlier confirmed presence of natural gas deposits like Lakach, Noxal and Lalai and the presence of heavy oil deposits such as Nab and Tamil, Coatzacoalcos has the geographic positioning to become a hub for deepwater projects. Is the port of Coatzacoalcos aiming for a central role as a regional hub for oilfield services companies focused on deepwater development?

“Our strategy is to be an industrial port,” says Gilberto Antonio Ríos Ruiz, General Director of the Coatzacoalcos Port Authority. Coatzacoalcos handles the second largest amount of Mexico’s annual total cargo. In 2010 the port handled approximately 34 million tonnes, including oil and commercial cargo. “This area of the country is not very developed and there is not a lot of industry. Also, since this is one of the poorest areas of the country, there is a lack of infrastructure. The port of Coatzacoalcos has the infrastructure that allows companies to come and settle here at a very low cost, which gives the regional economy an opportunity to grow.”

Regardless of the advantages provided by Coatzacoalcos’ infrastructure and location, a big logistical problem exists that impedes this port from expanding and developing further. Coatzacoalcos is quite tight on space. It stands on the left bank of the river, surrounded by a greatly developed urban area. Then, on the other side of the river is the Laguna de Pajaritos, which is for a large part owned by Pemex, and also holds an area of naval shipyards and a large piece of protected natural land. As a result, the Port of Coatzacoalcos does not have much room available for growth.

Nevertheless, according to Ríos Ruiz, Coatzacoalcos is growing into the Laguna de Pajaritos with a planned expansion of 50 hectares. In an attempt to attract new business, Coatzacoalcos is also constructing a new 270m pier, a 7.5 hectare terminal for fluids and a 7 hectare terminal for bulk minerals. Ríos Ruiz is optimistic about Coatzacoalcos’ future plans. “In five years, I would like the port to be ready to meet all the needs that might come up with the different developments that we are anticipating.” he said, “If we are ready for this, our job will be done. We have to see what will happen and what our potential customers will need.” According to its General Director, the port of Coatzacoalcos does not have the ambition to become an offshore oil and gas hub of the magnitude that the Port of Dos Bocas is planning. However, Coatzacoalcos is preparing itself to offer an attractive value proposition for niche players participating in the southern region’s deepwater development.