Changing customs

Mexican Customs authorities have yielded to demands from the Mexican trucking industry and are allowing them to participate in the newly implemented transfer of containers arriving from Asia at Mexico's west coast ports to the U.S. border.

Last December, the General Customs Administration opened up the ports of Manzanillo and Lazaro Cardenas, enabling movement to the border of sealed containers from Pacific Rim nations with final destinations in the U.S., provided they be carried exclusively by rail.

Mexico's trucking industry protested, and managed to have Customs open up a "pilot program" through the port of Ensenada, 50 miles south of San Diego, Calif.

At this moment, the large cove is being dredged to remove silt and deepen it from 10 to 14 meters. That depth, according to Miguel Garcia, vice president of CP Ships Mexico, will allow relatively large container ships to dock there. From Ensenada, the containers will be trucked to Tijuana, Tecate and Mexicali, where they will then move into the U.S. The project is slated to start in April.

If successful, the pilot program will then be widened to other ports. Mexican Customs wants to keep a tight rein on containers in transit to the U.S. in order to avoid theft and contraband. Only trucking companies meeting tough security standards will be allowed to participate.

Garcia notes that CP Ships — a Canadian company — is moving its operations out of "highly expensive" Los Angeles area ports to places like the Mexican ports of Manzanillo and Lazaro Cardenas. The ship line is also moving operations from Los Angeles to Oakland with significant cost savings expected. CP Ships vessels arriving from Asia stopped docking at L.A. on Dec. 1, he says."Mexico is a good example of how to save money, and we're trying to do the same in Oakland."

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