30th ANNUAL INTERMODAL - Kansas City inland port project is

By: | at 08:00 PM | Channel(s): Intermodal News  

By Gene Linn, AJOTThe drive by non-profit Kansas City SmartPort, Inc., to develop and promote an inland import/export hub is on a roll, both coming and going.Mazda cars have begun to come to Kansas City from Japan through the Mexican port of Lazaro Cardenas, to be distributed throughout the Midwest. In a few months, it will be much easier for components, agricultural products and many other goods to go through Kansas City’s new Mexican Customs facility on their way to Mexico.
Mazda recently began to ship Mazda 3 model cars from Japan to Lazaro Cardenas to avoid congestion at the main Mexican West Coast container port of Manzanillo. “There’s little or no room at Manzanillo for expansion,” said Jeremy Barnes, product communications manager for Mazda North American Operations, which handles Mazda imports and exports in North America. “There’s considerable room for expansion in Lazaro Cardenas.”
The port did not even handle container traffic until 2004 when steamship lines and shippers started to look for an alternative to Manzanillo. Now, the world’s largest developer and operator of deepwater ports, Hong Kong-based Hutchison Port Holdings, Ltd., is launching a 20-year, $290-million project to build capacity for 2 million twenty-foot-equivalent units a year. “Moving there (to Lazaro Cardenas) gave us an opportunity to get in early and build a relationship with the port,” Barnes said.
Once the Mazda 3 models are unloaded at Lazaro Cardenas, they are shipped all the way to Kansas City by Kansas City Southern Railway. The railway has offered a seamless corridor to Kansas City since April this year, when it completed the purchase of a controlling interest in Mexico’s TFM line. TFM connects to Kansas City Southern-run Texas Mexican Railway in Texas, which leads to Kansas City Southern routes. The US railway likes to call the entire 1,300-mile route “The Nafta Railway,” a reference to the North American Free Trade Agreement.
Mazda calls it efficient. The company unloads some of the cars made in Japan in Kansas City for distribution and sends the rest to its factory in Wood Haven, Michigan, to be distributed. The Japanese company also sends Mazda 6 models made in Michigan through Kansas City to go via the “Nafta Railway” to its Mexican logistics center in Toluca. “Logistics is far more convenient, there’s no doubt,” said Barnes. “It’s worked very well for us.”
Shipping by rail out of Lazaro Cardenas got cheaper last summer when the Mexican authorities scrapped an onerous “through bond” of up to $100,000 per container in favor of a single bond of $55,000 for a trainload of containers. “These savings could make shipping containers through Lazaro Cardenas up to 15% less expensive than through Long Beach or Los Angeles,” Kansas City Southern asserted in a news release.
The railway is taking further steps to enhance its “Nafta Railway.” It is installing Spanish language versions of its computer operating system to boost train speeds and decrease waiting times at terminals. As far as hardware, “TFM is in the process of planning upgrades to its on-dock and near-dock rail facilities in the Port to efficiently handle the forecasted growth in cargo,” said Doniele Kane, director of corporate communications and community affairs for Kansas City Southern. She added that the railway is “aggressively marketing the Port’s attributes and the rail corridor from Lazaro Cardenas to Kansas City and points throughout North America to steamship lines and other prospective customers.”
Mazda is hoping to contribute to growth in cargo through Lazaro Cardenas to Kansas City. Barnes noted that Mazda 3s are the company’s most popular model. “As sales increase, there’s every chance we will increase volume,” he said.
Exports will glide through KC’s “Mexican Customs House”
The “going” - or export - side of Kansas City SmartPort’s efforts generally take a back seat, mainly because US exports fall far behind imports.
However, the expected, landmark establishment of a Mexican Customs House in Kansas City

American Journal of Transportation