New Directions in U.S.-Mexico Trade and Logistics

Q: Why is trade with Mexico so important and where do you see the opportunities?

A: Mexico is already the United States’ second largest trading partner, with two-way trade in goods totaling over $615 billion per year. The recent implementation of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), combined with global sourcing strategies resulting in more nearshoring of manufacturing, point to continued growth in U.S.-Mexico trade.

Mexico is also one of Port Tampa Bay’s most important trading partners, ranking number one for imports and number two for exports. This covers a diverse mix of cargoes including bulk, break bulk, and containers. Among the commodities we handle and where we see opportunities for growth include fertilizer, chemicals, steel products, furniture, appliances, aggregates, cement, petroleum products, vehicles and auto parts, juice, and fruits and vegetables.

Q: What are the main issues impacting logistics and the supply chain for U.S.—Mexico trade?

A: As this trade continues to grow, the overland border crossings have become chokepoints, with importers and exporters increasingly frustrated with congestion and delays. However, thanks to new Gulf of Mexico services offering 3-day transit times to Port Tampa Bay, the all-water option is emerging as a much more efficient supply chain solution.

This is especially the case for trade between Mexico and Florida, but also reaching markets in the Southeast, Northeast, and the Midwest. Work Cat now offers a weekly Brownsville Texas-Port Tampa Bay container-on-barge service using 53-foot containers, which are especially attractive for customers used to receiving deliveries by truck from Monterrey and Northern Mexico.

ZIM has launched a new weekly Altamira-Port Tampa Bay service, the Mexico-Tampa Shuttle, with Kuehne + Nagel as partners on this new service marketed as the Blue Marlin Express.

Q: What is the port doing to handle this growth?

A: Together with our terminal operator partner Ports America, we are in the middle of a major expansion to accommodate the continued strong growth of our container business, which was up by 33% over the past 12 months.

The Port recently added 25 acres of additional paved storage, bringing the total to 67 acres, with plans to add another 30 acres. Work has also begun on the addition of a third berth, which will bring the total to more than 4,500 linear feet allowing three large ships to be worked at the same time. Construction will soon begin on a new container gate and the bid process has begun to acquire two additional ship-to-shore gantry cranes.

Another key partner is Port Logistics Refrigerated Services powered by Titan Cold Storage, which runs the new 135,000 SF on-dock refrigerated warehouse, and also provides stevedoring and terminal services, including for the new Work Cat barge service. This state-of-the-art facility is key to serving Florida’s grocery/food and beverage sector, which is concentrated along the Tampa Bay/Orlando I-4 Corridor—Florida’s Distribution Hub and important for the perishable trade with Mexico.

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