Port agreement expected to increase trade

NEW BEDFORD — The city signed a port agreement with a city located near Mexico City recently, hoping to capitalize on trade opportunities between the two cities.
In July, Mayor Jon F. Mitchell signed the International Sister Port agreement with the Port of Tuxpan, in Veracruz, Mexico, calling the move the beginning of a public/private partnership that will position New Bedford’s port as a significant import/export hub.
Port officials said New Bedford’s existing cold storage facilities, related to the seafood industry, make it an attractive option for importing fresh produce cargo. “This agreement sets the stage for New Bedford to become a hub for international produce destined for New England and Eastern Canada,” said Ed Anthes-Washburn, New Bedford’s acting port director.
The opportunity for trade both to and from Mexico has never been more cost effective, the city said.
“Overseas shipping saves about $1,500 per truckload,” said Pierre Bernier, stevedoring manager at Maritime International and one of the agreement’s key architects. “A refrigerated break-bulk ship carries about 200 truckloads of cargo, so the saving in freight expenses is about $300,000 per shipload.”
Tuxpan is the closest port to Mexico City with 50 million inhabitants. It will be connected to a modern highway that will be completed by the end of 2012.
“Today we celebrate an exciting new trade opportunity with Mexico. Someday soon we will be celebrating the nation’s first offshore wind energy project, launched from right here on this waterfront. And of course, our Port continues to provide a home to the most successful fishing fleet in the nation,” said Mitchell, who signed the agreement as Chair of the Port of New Bedford Harbor Development Commission. “How many ports can boast the infrastructure and flexibility necessary to accommodate all these activities? The answer is—not many. We are very fortunate.”
“One of the main goals of this International Sister Port Agreement is to increase the commercial links between Mexico and New England,” added Consul General of Mexico in Boston, Daniel Hernández Joseph. “I firmly believe this agreement is the first step towards a long-term relationship that will create new jobs, strengthen ties and promote understanding between our two nations.”
Ports and private companies like Maritime International are working to create a new refrigerated international coastal shipping service between the Port of Tuxpan and the Port of New Bedford that will focus on importing fresh produce.
“We know an all-water route from the Veracruz region through the Port of Tuxpan offers cheaper service in a similar timeframe as trucking the cargo would. We’re trying to get the right companies in the same room so that the deals can be made. This is the role I see the Port of New Bedford playing,” said Anthes-Washburn.
Opportunities are not limited to produce. Existing importers and exporters in the seafood industry also expect to reap benefits from the anticipated shipping service.
“Northern Wind is a global company. We are one of the world’s largest suppliers of fresh and frozen scallops from our local waters and from around the world, including Mexico. In addition we import mussels and salmon, and export lobster, monkfish, and skate,” said Michael Fernandes, president of Northern Wind, a New Bedford-based processor and supplier of fish and shellfish. “This service that this agreement should develop will provide for more competitive freight rates into the Mexico City area and its 50 million consumers. This is a tremendous opportunity for the South Coast and for all of New England.”
The agreement took months of planning and involved private companies and public officials who were committed to bringing the concept to fruition. Right now, the Port of New Bedford is working with government agencies on both sides of the border to identify producers and buyers to take advantage of such a service.
The US Department of Commerce’s National Export Initiative and its counterpart agency in Mexico, ProMexico, have been instrumental in making this agreement a reality.
Over the next few months, Anthes-Washburn and his equivalent at the Port of Tuxpan, Alfredo L. Sanchez Hevia, will be connecting producers and buyers in both countries to make the service viable. The Port of New Bedford has already scheduled a second Trade Development Summit for October 30-31, 2012 to be held at the Waypoint Event Center in New Bedford.
“The Port of Tuxpan views the execution of this Agreement with the Port of New Bedford as a strategic development in promoting trade by sea between Mexico and the U.S. We are extremely pleased to have the opportunity to work with Edward Anthes-Washburn and the Port of New Bedford,” said Ing. Alfredo l. Sanchez Hevia, Tuxpan Port Director.
The environmental benefits make the all-water service an even sweeter deal: shipping cargo by sea is vastly more efficient than trucking the same cargo across the border. Additionally, taking more trucks off the highways will bring huge savings in highway maintenance. Based on conservative estimates of 14 sailings during the initial shipping season, the service will remove approximately 20 million truck miles from the congested I-95 highway system.
July 20, 2012 4:01 PM
Source URL: http://www.southcoasttoday.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20120720/SCBULLETIN/208010312

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