Mexico's container ports had their busiest year ever in 2021, handling 7.85 million twenty-foot equivalent units across the country for an increase of 21.6% over 2020, according to statistics from Mexico's Secretariat of Communications and Transportation.
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Total container throughput at Mexican ports was the highest since 2019, when the ports handled 7.1 million TEUs, the SCT said.
Manzanillo in the Pacific state of Colima was by far the busiest port in 2021 with a total volume of 3.37 million TEUs, up by 15.9% from the previous year. It was followed by Lazaro Cardenas on the Pacific Coast with 1.69 million TEUs and Veracruz on the Gulf Coast with 1.17 million TEUs.
Mexico's total container imports were 3.98 million TEUs in 2021, up 23.4% from 2020, while total exports were only slightly lower at 3.87 million TEUs, up 19.8% year on year.
Traffic at Pacific Coast ports in 2021 grew at a faster rate of 23.7% from 2020 when compared to Gulf Coast ports, which grew by 11.5% year on year. This tracks with a global trend of increased imports from Asia in all regions as pandemic lockdowns increased consumer spending on goods. West Coast Mexico ports are the primary gateway for shipments from Asia.
Platts Container Rate 13 – North Asia to West Coast North America – was assessed on Feb. 3 at $9,500/FEU. But rates from China to West Coast Mexico more closely track rates to the West Coast of South America, assessed by Platts at $12,500/FEU on Feb. 3, down from a peak of $14,000/FEU on Jan. 11.
"As the market enters the Chinese New Year period, we have seen rates go down a bit," a Mexico City-based freight forwarder said. "It's not about the demand or the space, but about the timing. We are expecting a lot of pullovers from blanked sailings that will keep rates from dropping below $11,000/FEU before going up again at the end of February."
Mexico's Port of Manzanillo was the seventh busiest port in North America for international container volumes in 2021 behind Los Angeles, Long Beach, New York/New Jersey, Savannah, Vancouver and Houston.