The complicated process of draying loads

The growth parallels the rise of intermodal transport in the U.S. and Canada, but unlike to the north where the trend is cost-driven, in Mexico itís more about securing goods goods in a country plagued by cargo theft, particularly in container movements to and from ports like Lazaro Cardenas. Mexican shippers havenít seen the sharp rise in truckload rates that their U.S. counterparts have this year.

For cross-border shippers, security is a plus, but so is being able to avoid higher U.S. trucking costs and the complicated process of draying loads over the border. Shippers using intermodal rail can also get their goods through U.S. and Mexican customs faster than truck ó whether they tap the network of Kansas City Southern Railway, or BNSF Railway and Union Pacific Railorad's new joint services with Mexican railroad Ferromex.

The growth of Mexican intermodal transport since the North American Free Trade Agreement was signed 20 years ago is staggering. Terminal Intermodal Logistica de Hidalgo, a logistics hub 56 miles north of Mexico City, saw annual container handling jump 132 percent to 550,000 TEUs between 2000 and 2010, Valentin Navarrete Rodriguez, commercial manager, said Wednesday at the annual North American Strategy for Competitiveness conference in Mexico City. The hub could reach 1 million TEUs annually in 2020, he said.

Five-days-a-week KCS service connects the logistics park with the Lazaro Cardenas port on the Pacific Ocean. The railroad provides the same frequency of service to the Veracruz port on the Atlantic Ocean. The logistics hub, owned by Hutchison Port Holdings Limited, is also aiming to gain intermodal service to the Manzanillo port on the Pacific side and north toward the U.S. border, Rodriguez said.

Hutchison operates terminals at all three of the major Mexico container ports. The Hong Kong-based port operator earlier this month completed the second phase of its $193 million container terminal upgrade at Lazaro Cardenas, which included a new dock and yard, as well as the installation of seven super-post-Panamax cranes and 18 yard cranes, according to BNamericas.

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