It has now been more than 100 days that the ship Mary Nour and its crew of 41 have been stranded in the Mexican port of Altamira, forbidden from unloading its cargo of cement. CDM, the company trying to import the cement says it has every necessary authorisation and accuses Canacem, the cement chamber representing the Mexican cement industry, of using undue influence to protect an overpriced market.
Back in July Cemex, the leading Mexican cement company, obtained a court order to prevent the ship unloading its cargo citing safety concerns. Since then the Mary Nour has endured more than three months of inspections and raids by police and customs, with accusations ranging from smuggling drugs to carrying the SARS virus, and during which time the ship’s 41-member crew was even denied water for over a week. It was however only after 90 days, on 14th October, that the government finally officially seized the Mary Nour’s cargo.
Last week to prove it has every necessary authorisation CDM imported a truckload of bagged cement overland from the USA using the same authorizations and the procedure went with no hitches. This issue is evidently sensitive as illustrated by last week’s arrest of a news agency camera crew while legitimately filming outside the Cemex headquarters. Cemex, which has a majority market share in Mexico, acknowledges Mexican prices are high compared to other markets. But company officials claim expensive overheads such as labor and transport in Mexico, and the absence of government subsidies many foreign producers get.
Commenting on the 100 day anniversary, Ricardo Camacho, the Chairman of CDM said, “We can buy cement in Russia at US$32 per ton, bring it halfway around the world and still sell it profitably in Mexico at up to 10 percent below local prices. For Cemex to claim that Mexican labor and transports cost are higher than in countries such as the US and then to use this to justify excessively high pricing is amazing. “CDM has complied with every legal requirement to import cement into Mexico. All we are asking is the right to get on with our business.”