One of the main objectives of the reform of the Mexican port system in the mid-1990s was to promote competition between national and international companies in the provision of necessary services at ports (which at that time were mainly controlled by the port unions).

As noted at a recent conference organised by the Mexican Foreign Shipowners Association, this goal was achieved with some port activities, mainly with regard to the operation of specialised terminals (eg, for containers, chemicals and automobiles). Foreign companies such as Hutchinson, AP Terminals, SSA and ITCS now participate in these activities alongside national operators, resulting in increased productivity at the main ports on both sides of the country.

However, tug services remained under the exclusive control of a single supplier at each port (such companies included Grupo Boluda, SAMM and TMM Group).

The government is now opening up competition for tug services at three of the main Mexican ports – Manzanillo and Lazaro Cardenas on the Pacific Coast and Altamira on the Gulf of Mexico. It is expected that the port of Veracruz will soon follow.

An international tender was recently issued, inviting tug operators (both foreign and domestic) to participate in bidding rounds. The government hopes that this will give shipowners calling at the abovementioned ports a wide choice of tug operators, thus promoting competition between the service providers and leading to reduced costs.

In accordance with the Foreign Investment Law, companies providing tug services at Mexican ports may have up to 100% foreign investment in their capital share, following a favourable resolution of the National Commission on Foreign Investment.

For further information on this topic please contact Juan Carlos Merodio at M & L Estudio Legal by telephone (+52 55 5207 1187) or email (j.merodio@ml-estudiolegal.com.mx). The M & L Estudio Legal website can be accessed at www.ml-estudiolegal.com.mx.

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