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Big name operators in the mix for Mexico's largest infrastructure project

Big name operators in the mix for Mexico's largest infrastructure project

Hong Kong: Mexico's government is preparing to open bidding on the largest infrastructure project in the nation's history, a $ 4 billion seaport that could transform a farming village into a cargo hub to rival the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach in California.
If completed as planned by 2014, the port would be the linchpin of a new shipping route linking the Pacific Ocean to America's heartland. Vessels bearing shipping containers from Asia would offload them in Punta Colonet on Mexico's Baja California peninsula, about 150 miles south of Tijuana, where they would be whisked over newly constructed rail lines to the United States.
The privately funded development is attracting interest from heavyweights such as Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim Helu, said by Forbes magazine to be the world's second-richest man. Slim is part of a consortium planning an "aggressive" run at the project, according to Miguel Favela, general director of Mexican operations for cargo terminal operator MTC Holdings of Oakland, Calif.
Favela said MTC had teamed with Slim's Ideal infrastructure company and Mexican mining and railroad giant Grupo Mexico in an effort to gain the 45-year concession.
Mexico's transportation secretariat will release the request for proposals in June and hopes to select a winner by summer 2009, Subsecretary Manuel Rodriguez Arregui said in an recent interview.
Competition promises to be fierce. Hong Kong-based Hutchison Port Holdings said it planned to study the bid documents.
So will terminal operators SSA Marine of Seattle and Dubai's DP World. Ditto for railroads Union Pacific Corp. of Omaha, Neb., and Fort Worthbased BNSF Railway Co. Several companies previously had expressed interest in the deal but backed off after repeated delays in the launch of the bidding.
"All the major players... they'll be here," said Rodriguez Arregui, who will oversee the selection process.
Mexico's major Baja port now is at Enseneda, about 50 miles south of Tijuana, which is on the U. S. border. Big ships can unload there, but there are no rail links.
The Punta Colonet proposal will be structured as a joint port and rail project, requiring terminal operators, railroads and construction companies to join forces to win the deal. Hutchison and Union Pacific had formed an earlier alliance that dissolved in 2007. Sources said SSA Marine had partnered with leading Mexican construction company Empresas ICA. [31/03/08]

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