Cement ship sees further delays to unloading in Mexico

Cement ship sees further delays to unloading in Mexico
Published: 15 October 2004

A silo ship stuck at Mexican ports with more than 26,000 metric tons of Russian cement aboard will be further delayed from importing it following court action by the country’s cement industry chamber, officials of the importing company said Thursday.

The Mary Nour has been anchored at Gulf coast ports for three months, kept from unloading the cement through efforts of the chamber and the country’s biggest cement producer, Monterrey-based Cemex SA (CX).

The cement was brought from Russia by upstart cement company Comercio para el Desarrollo Mexicano, or CDM, a joint-venture of Amman, Jordan-based CTI Group, Spain-based Tradeland Commodities, and local businessmen.

CDM’s idea is to break into the lucrative Mexican cement market using the silo ship as a temporary terminal to import up to 500,000t a year. After that, it plans to build a mill, and ultimately an integrated cement plant.

Initially Cemex, the world’s third biggest cement maker which has more than 50% of the 30 million-ton-a-year Mexican market, obtained an injunction against the Mary Nour docking on grounds that it would be a shipping hazard when replenished from ships docked in parallel.

After a judge ruled that Cemex hadn’t provided evidence to support that claim, the cement load was embargoed by authorities, who had refused the company an import permit following a recommendation by the cement chamber.

CDM then acquired a third company that already had a permit for importing cement.

A court hearing in Tampico, which was to have resolved the matter Thursday, was suspended after the cement chamber filed in a separate court to be admitted as an interested third party in the case.

CDM chief executive Ricardo Camacho said in a phone interview that the case is between port authorities and customs, with CDM the affected third party.

He said involvement by the chamber, which is headed by the chief executive of Cemex’s Mexico unit, is "another delaying ploy" that could set the case back another month or more.

CDM estimates that the opportunity cost of having the Panamanian-flagged Mary Nour idle at the nearby port of Altamira is $26,500 a day.

Camacho said CDM chose Tampico for the docking site, which is close to the Cemex terminal at the port, because port conditions favored it and because of its proximity to the industrial northeast of Mexico, a market the company is targeting.