Sea ports in Mexico experience high trade activity and no wonder. Mexico is ranked the 13th largest export economy in the world and Mexico’s export industry is thus very broad. In 2020 Mexico imported $368B worth of goods according to the OEC. According to figures compiled by Statista, Mexico ranks 11th out of the 20 countries with the highest global exports. With this high global trade activity, it is natural that the country has high-level logistics centers, especially in the sea ports since 80% of global trade moves by sea. Read on for an overview of the major sea ports in Mexico.
The National Port System of Mexico
The National Port System of Mexico has 102 ports and 15 out-of-port terminals that connect the country’s companies with 145 countries.
The situation remained complex during 2020, as it is reported that the Mexico port system operated 7.7% less compared to 2019 (93 million 551 thousand 487 tons of cargo, compared to 101 million 337 thousand 266 tons in 2019).
International sea ports remain a crucial element for the development of Mexico’s trade with the world. With that in mind, we are sharing data on the main maritime ports where Ventus Global Logistics has coverage to support your foreign trade operations.
The National Port System of Mexico consists of 5 main sea ports in terms of tonnage capacity.
|Type of Freight
|Volume of Freight Tonnage
|Port of Manzanillo
|Port of Lázaro Cárdenas
|Lázaro Cárdenas, Michoacán
|Container, Break Bulk, Dry Bulk, Liquid Bulk
|Port of Veracruz
|Port of Altamira
|Container, Break Bulk, Dry Bulk, Liquid Bulk
|Port of Ensenada
|Ensenada, Baja California
Acronyms used in this article
TEU = Twenty-foot equivalent unit
The twenty-foot equivalent unit is an inexact unit of cargo capacity, often used for container ships and container ports. Source: Wikipedia
1. Sea Port of Manzanillo
The Port of Manzanillo is located on the Pacific coast in the state of Colima. Manzanillo is considered the largest sea port in Mexico. In addition to being a vital entry point for importers and exporters from Asia, it is also the main port for goods destined for the center of the country, especially Mexico City. The main activity of the port is foreign trade, since it generates more foreign exchange than local trade and tourism, and is the main source of income for the state of Colima. In 2021 the port handled 48% of all cargo entering the country.
The majority of exports that pass through the port of Manzanillo are distributed to Canada, the United States, Colombia, Guatemala, Ecuador and Chile. The most exported products of this port are sugar, beer, copper, steel pipes, resin and coal.
Asian countries such as Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, the Philippines and China, represent a total of 26% of all imports and 39% of all exports from this port.
The port of Manzanillo has terminals that are designed to handle general cargo, perishable products, agricultural products, vehicles, and cruise ships for docking.
In 2021, the port handled 3.37 million TEUs, a 15.9 % increase year over year, making it the busiest sea port in Mexico.
2. Sea Port of Lázaro Cárdenas
The Port of Lázaro Cárdenas is located on the Pacific coast in the state of Michoacán and is considered the second largest in the country. The port area has 1,500 hectares available for the development of new businesses and terminals. Lázaro Cárdenas is the only port in Mexico with a depth of 18.00 meters. It is also the only port that can receive vessels of up to 170 thousand tons of water displacement.
It has rail and road connections to the main economic and industrial zones of Mexico and the east coast of the United States through 15 established intermodal corridors and a modern highway.
Major exports from the port include iron plate, steel bars, diammonium, phosphate and container goods. Exports from the Port of Lázaro Cárdenas include shipments of pellets, pig iron, sulfur, grains, minerals, gasoline, diesel etc.
Currently there are 17 shipping lines operating in the Port of Lázaro Cárdenas with 29 commercial maritime services that connect Lázaro Cárdenas with 38 points in 15 countries in Asia and the Americas.
In 2021, 1.69 million TEUs passed through the port, recording a 58.9% increase year over year.
Port of Lázaro Cárdenas Rail Connections
- Lázaro Cárdenas – Altamira/Tampico
- Possibility of developing a transoceanic corridor Asia-Lázaro Cárdenas-Altamira-Europa Lázaro Cárdenas – Cuautitlán
- Shortest corridor in the Pacific. Direct connection with internal customs railway terminal Lázaro Cárdenas – Guadalajara
- Lázaro Cárdenas – Monterrey
- Connection with intermodal terminal It has internal customs office Lázaro Cárdenas – Pantaco
- Shortest Pacific corridor to the highest consumption area of the country, direct connection with railway terminal internal customs Lázaro Cárdenas – Querétaro
- Connection to the main industrial area of the Bajío Direct connection to intermodal terminal Lázaro Cárdenas – San Luis Potosi
- Direct connection to the intermodal terminal, it has a Lázaro Cárdenas customs office – Tóluca
- Connection to the industrial zone in the center of the country, connection to the Lázaro Cárdenas railway terminal – Veracruz
- Connection with the port that operates the largest number of containers in the Gulf of Mexico, possibility of developing a transoceanic corridor Asia – Lázaro Cardenas – Altamira – Europe The port operator for both terminals is HPH.
3. Sea Port of Veracruz
The Port of Veracruz located in Veracruz state along the Gulf of Mexico is among the most secure commercial sea ports in Mexico.
The port has modern service infrastructure that places it as a national leader in the movement of agricultural bulks, automobiles, and containers. The Port of Veracruz is the only port in the country with gamma ray scanning equipment and X-ray scanning equipment.
In 2021, 1,600 vessels, 16,50,000 tons of cargo, and 560,000 TEUs were handled at the Port of Veracruz.
4. Sea Port of Altamira
The Port of Altamira has positioned itself as the main entrance for international trade destined for the Central and Bajio Regions of Mexico. The construction of the Port of Altamira was carried out in an unpopulated area, which allowed it to occupy an area of 1,600 hectares of land. Over the years the port has been developed to handle container ships.
Today the Port of Altamira has terminals for multiple uses. The port is equipped with terminals for bulk carriers, chemical cargoes, and liquefied gas. During the period from January to September of 2021, the Port of Altamira operated more than 16.5 million tons, registering an increase of 27% compared to the same period the previous year. In addition, 1,451 ships were served through its port terminals, which represents an increase of 16% YoY.
In the course of 2022 the Port of Altamira has added new cargo projects that have led to an increase of its capacity. For example, 230,940 finished cars passed through the port, a +19% YoY.
Mineral bulk cargo representing 4 million tons passed through the port, a +19% YoY. Agriculture bulk cargo representing 829,139 tons passed through the port, a +37% YoY.
Today the Port of Altamira occupies 1st place in the total movement of petrochemical fluids, 2nd in the handling of cars through the Gulf of Mexico, and 4th place in the total movement of cargo nationwide.
In 2021, a total of 1,550 ships, 12,185,000 tons of cargo and 397,000 TEUs were handled at the Port of Altamira.
5. Sea Port of Ensenada
The Port of Ensenada is located in the northwest corner of Mexico, in the state of Baja California. The port lies 110 kilometers from the US-Mexico border. Additionally, Ensenada is also the seat of the Municipality of Ensenada, bordering to the north with the states of California and Arizona and to the south with Baja California Sur.
The Port of Ensenada is connected by Federal Highway 1 to Tijuana and San Diego.
The Ensenada Port maintains import and export activity with countries such as China, South Korea, Japan, The United States, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Panama, Russia, Venezuela, Jamaica, and Nicaragua, among others. Operations within the Port of Ensenada include containerized cargo, general cargo, agricultural bulk, mineral bulk, shipyards, fluids, fishing, marinas and cruises.
Currently the carrie lines that arrive at the port of Ensenada are: APL China Shipping, CMA-CGM, CSAV, Hapag-Lloyd, Maersk, NYK and MOL. The main import goods that arrive at the port are wheat, metal-scrap, seafood, electronics, pork, cotton, toys, and glass.
The Port of Ensenada received the Maritime Prize of the Americas (WFP); for becoming the first green port in Mexico and the second in Latin America. The port authority of Ensenada is considering starting an alliance with the research and efficiency company of RightShip, which will reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in the port. Firstly, by implementing a program, which will have the task of making ships less polluting.
In 2021 the Port of Ensenada handled 394,911 TEUs. The port is a multipurpose facility for commercial shipping and passenger ships.
Customs Offices In All Major Sea Ports in Mexico
Ventus Global Logistics has customs clearance offices in these 5 major sea ports of Mexico. Our strategic locations in these 5 major sea ports enable us to serve our clients efficiently. Our clients save time and money when partnering with us to import goods into Mexico. Contact us today to get a customized free no obligation quote for your business today.